Are dispensaries indispensable? Patient experiences of access to cannabis from medical cannabis dispensaries in Canada.
In 2001, Canada established a federal program for cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP). Medical cannabis dispensaries (dispensaries) are widely accessed as a source of CTP despite storefront sales of cannabis being illegal. The discrepancy between legal status and social practice has fuelled active debate regarding the role of dispensaries. The present study aims to inform this debate by analysing CTP user experiences with different CTP sources, and comparing dispensary users to those accessing CTP from other sources.
We compared sociodemographic characteristics, health related factors and patterns of cannabis use of 445 respondents, 215 who accessed CTP from dispensaries with 230 who accessed other sources. We compared patients’ ratings of CTP sources (dispensaries, Health Canada’s supplier, self-production, other producer, friend or acquaintance, street dealer) for quality and availability of product, safety and efficiency of access, cost, and feeling respected while accessing.
Patients using dispensaries were older, more likely to have arthritis and HIV/AIDS, and less likely to have mental health conditions than those not using dispensaries. Those accessing dispensaries used larger quantities of cannabis, placed greater value on access to specific strains, and were more likely to have legal authorization for CTP. Dispensaries were rated equally to or more favourably than other sources of CTP for quality, safety, availability, efficiency and feeling respected, and less favourably than self-production and other producer for cost.
Given the high endorsement of dispensaries by patients, future regulations should consider including dispensaries as a source of CTP and address known barriers to access such as cost and health care provider support. Further research should assess the impact of the addition of licensed producers on the role and perceived value of dispensaries within the Canadian medical cannabis system.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
PMID:28667878 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.05.046
Capler R1, Walsh Z2, Crosby K2, Belle-Isle L3, Holtzman S2, Lucas P4, Callaway R5