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RECREATIONAL AND MEDICINAL CANNABIS, AN UNEASY COEXISTENCE SO FAR
By Cori Marshall
National Cannabis Survey Numbers for the fourth quarter of 2018 indicate that approximately 4592 people reported using cannabis in the last three months of the year. Of those reported consumers, 479.1 (1.6%) were medical cannabis patients without a document, 620.4 (2.1%) had medical documentation, 1271.4 (4.2%) people reported consuming cannabis both for medical and recreational reasons.
More men than women used cannabis in general, and for medical reasons as well. These numbers only tell part of the story, and the part people are willing to share. We reached out to the people at Best Buds Society to gain a clearer picture of the industry and were able to speak with Pat Warnecke one of the minds behind the operation.
Best Buds Society has been in existence for six years, operating a store and providing medical cannabis patients with products since 2015. Pat Warnecke, Best Buds owner, informed us that since October the medical cannabis industry has been "affected greatly". Warnecke continued "now patients don't have access to the proper supply, quality, and priced products."
"This is all because of, quote, unquote, legalization of cannabis. There are more charges and criminal code offences than ever before," Warnecke said. He added that "it chased a lot of compassionate growers out of the market, we are finding more patients in a stressed situation right now."
"Patients need affordable cannabis, legalization has made prices go up almost 100%."
Pat Warnecke, Best Buds Society
The current situation not only affected the price but product availability as well. Warnecke said that "there is a lack of selection in terms of flower on the market, [and] these recreational stores don't have CBD, tinctures, suppositories, extracts, topicals, the things that are needed in the medical [cannabis] industry."
"Because of legalization, a lot of dispensaries are being raided and shut down," Warnecke said. He explained that "now in Vancouver there are none when just a couple of months ago there were 110." He underlined that "now there is less access than ever before."
"In Regina, we had 22 dispensories, now we have the legal shops and the prices are astronomical, and there is no selection and its only flower. There are patients that do not want to smoke flowers, we are patients and should have access to all forms of products."
Pat Warnecke, Best Buds Society
The situation does not look like it will clear up with the legalization of edibles this autumn. According to Warnecke, the situation will be compounded, he underlined that "if they are not getting the flower out the door, they are not taking the extra time to process the rest of the goods."
Warnecke drew attention to an apparent double standard in the cannabis market. He finds that the rules surrounding edibles are restrictive, calling attention to the fact that "we allow alcohol to sold in various forms, [...] yet we don't allow sick people to have the edibles they need."
Warnecke said that a way to better secure the medical cannabis industry and ensure that patients have access to what they need is to "include more grassroots and craft growers in the industry." He underlined that the large publicly traded companies don't have the patient's interests at heart, "a lot of them have already dropped the patient profile, stating they won't be helping [them] in the future when that's the reason they got a licence in the first place."
"Small business, First Nations, and craft growers are the answer moving forward," Warnecke said. He explained that through their operation they have "helped out a lot of First Nations communities adopting their programs, getting their retail store going and driving economic change."
There is an importance in clearing up the medical and recreational discrepancies. Warnecke said that "that there are [approximately] 200 issues that medical cannabis can treat." When Warnecke first got into the industry cannabis was viewed mainly as something "to treat spinal diseases, severe arthritis, and it's really evolved as time goes by."
Warnecke explained that cannabis can "impact the whole immune system." It can be used to "treat any kind of pain and sleep disorder." He underlined that "it helps to bring a balance to our minds and our bodies."
The future of the medical cannabis industry and how it is perceived will be influenced by individuals. Warnecke believes that "the government is trying to push it the opposite way, they are trying to normalize it so much to make all cannabis recreational."
Warnecke foresees "a power struggle between patients and the government." The reason he believes is this that everyone including cannabis patients "all pay our double taxes and they can make a lot of money on it." Warnecke would like to see an environment where medical cannabis is covered by insurance.
We also spoke with Shantal Arroyo, Director and Coordinator at the Clinique la croix verte which is composed of "a unique team of Quebec health professionals working with new tendencies in health treatment, specializing in herbal medicines, medical cannabis and its derivatives." La croix verte offers its services seven days a week and employs twenty-two full-time staff members.
Under the current legal framework Arroyo believes that the model that the Clinique operates under "is a perfect example of how medical cannabis has to be handled," she continued by saying that "we need to open up the services of transformation."
Arroyo echoed Warnecke's view that there has been a "decline" in the medical cannabis industry since October. "Everybody is turning to the recreational system," Arroyo said, adding that the "medical system is weak, and product expensive."
"[There are] too many so-called experts that put the safety of patients in jeopardy selling medicine that is weak or too strong."
Shantal Arroyo, Director and Coordinator, Clinique la croix verte
As for the public's perception of medical cannabis since October, Arroyo said "since it's legal everybody wants to have access." The Clinique has registered 900 patients since October between 55 and 8 years of age. Arroyo said that those registered in the last five months all have "severe conditions or are in cancer treatment." The Clinique is in a period of constant growth.
Arroyo said that the applications for medical cannabis have evolved over the years. Arroyo said that "when we first started the compassion centre in 2002 it was mostly HIV and hepatitis clients." It was around 2006 that the Clinique "saw a rise in cancer and epilepsy patients."
With the development of strains and products Arroyo said "now we can treat anything with inflammatory and chronic pain, … from nerve pain, back pain, skin problems, and even rare pathologies."
Cannabis has real medical benefits for real people. There appears to be a real issue in the current cannabis environment. Medical patients are turning to the recreational market to get the products they need. The question still remains how the two, medical and recreation, czn work together so that everyone benefits fully from what cannabis has to offer.
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