Letter: Dispensaries are victims of pot legalization

COO of Kelowna-based cannabis company says legalization process has hindered patients

To the editor:

If cannabis legalization gets any more costly, we may need to revert back to the black market model. At least then, patients needn’t struggle to get their medication. The current victims of the legalization effort are the dispensaries, and with them the patients.

They filled a gap left when the government permitted medical marijuana in 2001, but left the patient without access to their medication. Fifteen years later, Neil Allard successfully sued the government for unduly restricting the access to medical cannabis.

These dispensaries were run illegally, but they didn’t hide in the shadows. They applied to get business licenses, to pay their taxes. Dispensaries understood the patients’ struggle and introduced their own verification process; it wasn’t top-notch, but it got the meds to the patient.

The truly effective plant cannot contain contaminating residue. Most dispensaries were vigilant in providing organic cannabis, untainted by chemicals. They built up a knowledge base matching strains to conditions. They gained the trust of their patients.

With the announcement of legalization for adult-use came draconian enforcement demanding closure of these dispensaries. The authorities justified this by claiming that the medical marijuana system was in place so the patient could access their medication. Here, their argument crumbles. As dispensaries were shut down, the patient either resorts to a street dealer selling an unknown quality, or approaches Health Canada for a script.

This is a major roadblock as the patient must approach their doctor. The first hurdle for the patient is to get their doctor’s consent. Doctors are wary of talking about cannabis as a medicine. Doing so, they put their medical license at risk, thereby muzzled from talking about what might provide the best relief. In fifteen years, this issue has yet to be addressed.

The government allows the multimillion dollar licensed producers (LPs) to only offer mail-order cannabis. If a patient lapses on their refill, rather than heading to their local dispensary, their relief is at the mercy of the postal system.

While the previous system skirted the law, it had better results. On the current landscape, the patient faces the worst consequences. We can do better. I implore municipal governments to please reconsider their treatment of dispensaries, acknowledging the harm inflicted on patients by shutting down their access point.

Darrin LR Fiddler, COO, Mariceuticals Inc., Kelowna

Kelowna, BC

250.470.7749

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