19 is Enough

This week Gatineau’s Hydropothecary became Canada’s nineteenth licensed producer of medical cannabis under Health Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), and the first in Quebec. The company has passed all of Health Canada’s quality assurance tests and will begin supplying patients soon. Hydropothecary promises to be “ready to set a new benchmark in the nation’s medical marijuana industry… and truly superior customer service.” But within those promises lie the flaws that have plagued the other eighteen LPs.

“Hydropothecary’s concierge customer service offering includes free and convenient after-hours and weekend courier delivery, guaranteed supply for registered clients, a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a dedicated 24-hour hotline for patients and police services” boasts their press release. This leads to questions about an industry’s nineteenth member whose featured selling points are based on the failings of its first eighteen. How did it take this long for an LP to base their mandate on customer service?

Part of that mandate is to guarantee supply, something that has troubled the other eighteen LPs. How is Health Canada still committed to the LP model if after nearly twenty licences they still can’t get it right? And for Hydropothecary to celebrate its virtues in direct comparison to its industry’s flaws is in and of itself an indictment of the LP model. It’s like a new restaurant opening up and flaunting a promise not to give customers food poisoning.

We also wonder, almost laughingly, about after-hours delivery. Is there any service more convenient for patients than their own gardens? If you have tomatoes in your backyard, chances are you’re not spending much time wandering the produce aisle at Loblaws. And we can understand a 24-hour hotline for patients (especially given the bacteria-infected products of other LPs), but why a similar service for police? Is your pharmacist prone to calling the constabulary after you pick up your other prescriptions?

Hydropothecary has also had issues with pricing as noted by the Ottawa Citizen: “When it won its production license last autumn, the firm anticipated charging anywhere between $26 and $32 per gram depending on the marijuana strain. That was easily double the market rate.” The LP now promises its four products will cost $15/gram, which puts it among the most expensive among the LPs, a growing problem in an industry that refuses to offer discounts to low-income patients.

Interestingly, the company’s name (though an attempt to be clever) is an indictment of the industry. The portmanteau borrows from “apothecary”, a precursor to the pharmacy, and an anachronistic term most often associated with societies and eras long past. Though the word is still used in some parts of the world, in North America it suggests a practice that is now outdated and made redundant by the modernization of the manner in which we distribute medicine.

We fear that Hydropothecary is not the last LP, but we hope that it is. The manner in which they’ve presented themselves borders on parody, an SNL sketch lambasting the flaws in the LP system. But, unfortunately, it is not a parody and it is not funny. Simply put, our medicine needs to return to our gardens. Nineteen is enough.