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Making Medicinal Cannabis More Accessible: The BCCCS’ Legalization

This fall, Canada will enter its 3rd year of cannabis legalization. You might have noticed recreational stores popping up everywhere. Yet, according to the StatsCan 2020 Canadian Cannabis Survey, only 41% of respondents report making a purchase from a legal government-approved storefront. Where do the other 59% go? Learn why medicinal cannabis users still prefer storefront medicinal dispensaries like the BCCCS, and what we’re doing to preserve this model of operation, as we move toward legalization… 

The Problem with Obtaining Medicinal Cannabis

On October 17, 2018, cannabis became federally legal for both sale and consumption. Yet, three years in, the medicinal market seems to have been left by the wayside. Even with the currently approved system, many people still find it impossible to obtain reliable and affordable cannabis medicine.

Currently, the only way to access legal medicinal cannabis is through licensed producers (LPs) and their government-approved websites. This still requires you to obtain a letter of approval from a physician or nurse practitioner. Licensed medicinal suppliers will still charge 10%-30% over what would be considered affordable or accessible pricing (average retail price is $10.30/g for dried flower, StatsCan 2020). You also need a credit card or PayPal account to order online and an address where it can be delivered by Canada Post or a similar mail courier.

As many of you know, this method of online access does not work for all medicinal users. BCCCS members are often low-income. Many of our members do not have reliable internet access, do not own credit cards or bank accounts, and some even struggle to find a permanent, fixed address.

The current medicinal system fails to address those barriers to access, and therefore, leaves behind a large segment of the most vulnerable cannabis users. Patients often resort to the black market, which carries many risks, or they use recreational stores that provide little insight into how cannabis should be used for medicinal purposes. 

Why Websites Will Never Replace the In-Store Experience

Even as other options have become readily available, such as obtaining your prescription cannabis from a government-approved pharmacy, many medicinal cannabis users still prefer unregulated dispensaries like the BC Compassion Club. The question is, why?

Some of it may have to do with the lack of cannabis knowledge and expertise on the part of physicians and pharmacists. Because of cannabis’ long-held illegal status, medical practitioners are often woefully undereducated about cannabis consumption and medicinal use. A survey of hospital pharmacists in Canada reported that almost half of respondents did not feel comfortable giving advice to patients on the use of medicinal cannabis.

Add to that, the difficulty of obtaining a physician’s referral and the stigma still attached to cannabis use, and you can see why many patients have resorted to using recreational stores, even though pricing is usually 30 to 50 percent higher than unregulated providers or the black market.

Sadly, using black market cannabis comes with serious risks, such as exposure to tainted products that could be mixed with unknown, harmful substances, potentially harmful side effects because of the unknown origin of the product, and undesirable interactions with existing medications. That’s why unregulated, but legally-abiding dispensaries like the BCCCS, are seeking to legalize, to remove the need for black market purchases, while keeping pricing and cannabis quality consistent and reasonable, within the storefront model that our members have come to know and love.

In fact, research proves that brick and mortar stores are still preferred by most medicinal cannabis users. Patients with complex medical issues require staff with strong product knowledge, who can offer in-person consultations, and give recommendations on various cannabis products. Studies show, cannabis users prefer cannabis suppliers with strong product knowledge (71%), followed by a welcoming feeling (52%), products offered at reasonable prices (75%), and for respondents aged 55+, overall product quality (62%) (Deloitte , 2018).

Medicinal users need a physical storefront where patients can seek advice on strains, dosages and safe methods of consumption.

Our Appeal to Health Canada

As part of our mission to provide accessible, affordable, high-quality medicinal cannabis, we are asking Health Canada to approve a third option for medicinal users – to legalize, or at least provide exemptions, that would allow us to continue operating our storefront dispensary as we move toward compliance with cannabis regulations. We look to legalization to ensure that our services and products are reliable, and available, without the fear of closure or police interference.

An established cannabis provider like the BCCCS could become the new model for compassionate cannabis care, where we can offer product sales, cannabis education, one-on-one consultation, and advocacy on the patient’s behalf, and we are currently working with Health Canada to make that a reality.

This will involve renovations to our retail space, proper COVID-19 protocols and procedures (which we already have in place), city licensing permits, new product packaging that complies with legal standards, and we are also looking into purchasing the building that holds our current dispensary location, so that we can continue the good work that we have already achieved and serve our community members for years to come. 

Conclusion

Right now, there are few organizations that cater solely to the medicinal cannabis market. Our aim is to obtain our Health Canada licensing using the same patient-focused, non-profit dispensary model that allows us to serve those who cannot currently access the legal cannabis system. And though the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a slowdown of this process, we are moving toward legalization, and with some patience, we will get there. As always, we thank you all for your continued support!

Want to find out how you can help? A little goes a long way… Help support our advocacy, club activities and member services. Check out our donation section on our website.

Or contact us for more information at 604.875.0437 or at info@thecompassionclub.org

 

 

How to Get Cannabis Medicine During COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has caused a lot of confusion about where, when, and how to get cannabis during COVID-19. While we’ve made some changes at the BC Compassion Club in order to abide by Provincial health guidelines, the good news is we are open! And you can still buy cannabis swiftly and simply from our dispensary. Want to know how you can safely buy your medicine? Learn More…

What We’re Doing at The Club to Keep You Safe

We have since developed a way for members to visit us that follows all Provincial guidelines regarding COVID-19 prevention. This involves a few extra precautions in the dispensary space, such as:

  • All staff wearing masks (including the recent staff decision to double-mask to prevent the spread of UK & South African COVID-19 variants)
  • Plexiglass dividers in the dispensary reception areas
  • Increased sanitization of commonly used surfaces and shared workspaces
  • Limiting the number of staff or members in one area
  • Mandatory health & temperature checks for staff BEFORE each shift
  • Staff self-isolation & testing if ANY symptoms of COVID-19 are displayed     

Please know that we are taking these precautions seriously. Many of our members and staff have serious health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 and it could be life-threatening if contracted.

This is also why we’ve developed a new system for ordering our cannabis medicines…

Our New Pickup Process: How to Buy Cannabis From Us 

While we loved the old, open way of doing things, that simply doesn’t work during a pandemic. We can no longer allow members to smell or touch the cannabis, at the current time we cannot offer multiple walk-in lanes, neither can we share hugs or high fives with everyone. But our new pickup system still allows members to stop by on short notice.

Fast & Simple — Scheduled Pickups

If you’ve bought cannabis from us in the past few months, you’re probably already aware of our current pickup system. It’s not an involved process:

  1. Call us by phone, or contact us by email, to place an order at least 15-20 minutes before you intend to pick up, so that we can get your order ready and minimize wait times at the Club.
  2. We will arrange a certain pickup “window” to keep the number of members inside the dispensary to a max of 2 members in the Club at any one time.
  3. Pick up your medicine at the arranged time.

If you leave a voicemail or email, we will contact you back as soon as we can to arrange a pick-up time.

We love how this system has been working! By pre-ordering, it keeps wait times low and allows members to gather their medicine quickly and with limited contact.

Patient & Spontaneous —Walk-Ins

While we encourage members to contact us ahead of time to preschedule their orders in order to get their cannabis medicine during COVID-19 (at least 20 minutes ahead of time is usually enough to get your order ready), we recognize that there are some members who may have difficulties placing orders by phone or email.  

If that is the case, or if you just happen to be in the area and want to stop by, we do accept limited walk-ins. However, those with scheduled pickups will be given priority, so walk-ins may have to wait a few minutes before they are served. Don’t worry, we will do our best to ensure that all members are served as quickly as possible.

Let’s Work Together to Keep Everyone Safe

Now you know how to buy your cannabis from the club during COVID-19, and with these new protocols in place, we can keep everyone healthy and safe.

We appreciate your patience when it comes to our new pick-up system and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to our members. Remember, this isn’t forever. There will come a day when we can all socialize, gather, and hug without worry. But for now, we’re all in this together and we can all get through this difficult time by practicing a little patience, kindness, and compassion.

Need more info or want to reach out to us? We are here to help.

Call us at (604) 875-0437

Or Email us at info@thecompassionclub.org for general info, or pickup@thecompassionclub.org for medicine orders.