Here’s a long post with my thoughts about what’s going on with some of the cannabis dispensaries, and the debates we’re having about complying with the new regime, or resisting and continuing to serve patients. Not surprisingly, I fall on the side of continued resistance.
I am a founding member of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD).
We represent about 30 dispensaries across Canada, mostly in BC.
The current board wants to change our name to remove the word “medical” and the word “dispensaries.”
They are also pushing all member dispensaries to shut down now and apply for a legal permit before reopening.
Member dispensaries who do not comply with the new rules would be kicked out of CAMCD.
I think these are all very bad ideas!
We have a meeting on Friday to vote on this new plan.
As a founding member of CAMCD, someone who has poured hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars into the organization, and someone who has worked diligently to promote and build the dispensary movement across Canada, I am urging CAMCD member dispensaries to vote against this new plan.
I believe these two proposed changes strike at the heart of what CAMCD has always stood for.
Our motto has always been “patients first” but this plan does not put patients first at all.
Let’s Put Patients First
The new “legalization” laws coming on Oct 17 will do nothing to change or improve access for cannabis patients. Medical users will still need to go through the same system of ordering cannabis in the mail from an LP, and I expect doctors will be even more reluctant to sign prescriptions because they will just direct patients to the legal market. Sadly, the legal cannabis market will be completely inadequate for patients.
Patients get no tax breaks. Prices for cannabis will be higher than the current prices charged by dispensaries. Compassionate pricing, medical discounts and free access for those in need will all be completely forbidden. Edibles and extracts will also all still be forbidden to patients. These coming changes to the cannabis laws are all putting patients dead last!
We all know that the true medicinal value of cannabis lies in extracts. What will we say to the tens of thousands of patients who currently rely on CAMCD dispensaries for their cannabis extract medicines? I am not willing to turn my back on all those patients until the government eventually gets their regulations for extracts in place. That won’t be until 2020, maybe longer.
Plus, who knows what kind of system they will put in place for extracts and edibles? I’m sure they will be very expensive, heavily taxed, severely restricted, limited in potency, and hard to get. Medical patients will not get any discounts or improved access. I guarantee that the laws and regulations they place on extracts will not be putting patients first!
I’m disappointed that some CAMCD dispensaries seem so willing to abandon patients and eliminate their access to precious cannabis edibles, extracts, capsules, suppositories and all other forms of this medicine.
We need to put patients first! I believe that means standing firm, staying open, and continuing to provide a continuum of care.
We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
There has been a lot of fear-mongering from federal and BC governments about coming cannabis enforcement, but I believe it is mostly bark and not much bite. We must not let the government bluff dispensaries into closing down and abandoning our patients.
If they could close dispensaries down, they would have done so already. They’ve tried in many jurisdictions and repeatedly failed.
If we stand strong and united we can survive for years to come.
Dispensaries that close down voluntarily will be giving up without a fight and likely never opening their doors again.
There is only going to be one legal cannabis shop in all of BC on October 17. In Kamloops.
There’s only 100 applications in the system for the whole province. Minister Farnworth told the media it could be 2 to 3 years before the whole system is in place! It could easily take even longer.
Dispensaries will still be needed and play a vital role in patient access for years to come.
I believe that we have nothing to fear but fear itself!
Most Dispensaries Can’t Get Legal Permits
The odds are very much against any given dispensary getting a legal permit. I am sure some few dispensaries will be able to transition into selling legal, preweighed, presealed buds for razor-thin profit margins, but the vast majority simply will not be able to do so no matter how hard they try.
Severe zoning restrictions mean that the vast majority of existing dispensaries simply cannot ever get a permit.
Vancouver‘s current bylaws make it so that at most the city can hold two dozen dispensaries. Other cities have similar restrictions, or outright bans on cannabis shops. And as we have seen, the dispensaries that got licenses were often brand new ones that hadn’t even opened yet, while longstanding dispensaries with strong CAMCD affiliation, such as the BCCCS and others, were completely unable to get a city permit no matter what they did.
United we can withstand the city and the province, as we have seen from the beginning. Nothing changes on Oct 17. This is not the time to cave in and close down.
If dispensaries voluntarily close down we’re walking into an obvious trap which will mean the end of everything we have built in so many cities across Canada.
We Must Focus on Continuing Our Mission
My dispensaries will focus on putting patients first, and continue to provide access to medicinal cannabis products including extracts. I hope CAMCD will focus on protecting all dispensaries who belong to the organization.
CAMCD should be talking about legal defence strategies, possible court challenges, how to set up home delivery without storefronts, and other tactics and methods to ensure there is a continuum of care for patients and that we can all continue to survive and thrive no matter what may come.
This proposal to take “medical” and “dispensaries” out of our name and encourage our member dispensaries to shut down strikes right at the heart of our “patients first” philosophy.
CAMCD is the strongest and most recognized voice there is for patients and the dispensaries that serve them. I will be very disappointed if this group that I co-founded decides to abandon patients at this crucial time.
I believe we must stand firm on our founding principles. Medical cannabis dispensaries are needed more than ever.
Dispensaries are indispensable!