Leaf it alone, say experts

While currently illegal, Canada's cannabis distribution system works well, claim UBC researchers.

Store-front dispensaries – often under fire by law enforcement and city governments – are a tried and true method of selling cannabis, according to UBCO associate psychology professor Zach Walsh and PhD candidate Rielle Capler.

The pair recently published a study on medicinal cannabis dispensaries and found customers prefered an independent storefront, as opposed to growing their own weed or getting it from a dealer.

So-called pot shops have proliferated in the Okanagan over the past few years, selling cannabis for medical purposes.

The UBC research suggests that when recreational marijuana use becomes legal in 2018, the current system of dispensaries should remain.

“Dispensaries do serve a role in our society, especially for some people with chronic illnesses who use cannabis for medicinal purposes,” said Walsh. “There is a self-regulatory model that already exists and improvements can be made in a legalized environment.”

The study is one of the first to specifically look at the experience of dispensary users. It compared their experiences to those who purchase cannabis through other sources including self-production, and illegal sources, such as friends or street dealers. More than 440 people were questioned.

“Our study also provides insight into some of the aspects of dispensaries that the government may want to emulate in the legal framework for both medical and recreational use,” said Capler.

She called the current situation, with dispensaries on main streets, a natural experiment.

“Dispensaries are not new and they provide a proven, valuable service. While some are thought of as a nuisance, in reality many of these dispensaries are small, independent, long-standing businesses who serve a dedicated clientele.”

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