Dana Larsen on CAMCD name his dispensary will not Shut, and putting patients first

Dana Larsen on new CAMCD name, why his dispensary will not Shut, and putting patients first

He’s the owner of The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, which has two locations in Vancouver, and he tells us how all the new changes being brought in with legalization will change things for dispensaries and patients, why transitioning into the legal system would stop his dispensary from being involved with harm reduction efforts in the DTES (and may possibly get him kicked out of CAMCD), and what it means to really put patients first, irrespective of threats from the government to shut down or else.


Dana Larsen: The CAMCD voted to change their name to the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers, which spells ACCR [declared as “acres”], and I truly think we ought to ’ve kept our focus on medicinal cannabis, but as a group they decided that they wanted to expand their representation to include non-medicinal sockets that is the only kind of legal cannabis outlet we’re allowed to have under the Cannabis Act.

“Medical” and “dispensary” were taken from the title and I think part of the logic behind that is if you run a dispensary and you need to become legal and get a license, you can’t call yourself a dispensary and you can’t have the word “medical” in your name anymore.

You also can’t have a red cross like we do at the logo of our dispensary and you can’t even speak to people about medicinal use.

How close was the vote?

The vote to change the title was unanimous except for our dispensary voting against it. The vote to include “medical” to the statement of purpose was also unanimous but I still have concerns. I don’t believe that CAMCD is sticking to their original purpose, which was to advocate for access and for the dispensaries that serve them.

I think the group has morphed into a cannabis retailers institution and the new name reflects that. I’m not against institutions like that existing but I don’t believe that it’s a suitable replacement CAMCD was the only organization that was advocating for patients and dispensaries in Canada and I’m really sorry to see that change in concentration and change in name.

With the name change and what’s going on with the shift in focus will your dispensary remain a member?

We’re still a member for now and we’ll see what happens. There’s some other questions within the group about how to manage dispensaries that don’apply for a permit and t choose to shut down.

I believe by continuing to serve patients and providing a continuum of care that includes extracts, edibles and other products with great medicinal value that won’t be available through these legal cannabis stores for at least a year, and likely longer in my opinion, I believe we’re actually sticking to the original mandate of CAMCD.

But there’s a question because it seems if you’re not willing to follow the bylaws or you violate any of those rules, you’re kicked from CAMCD and that’s a big issue. We’re actually having a meeting on that issue soon and I hope we can fix that and I’d hate to see CAMCD abandon or kick out members that are continuing what they’ve been doing for years, which is supplying patients with cannabis medicine.

And needless to say, CAMCD was financed by dispensaries, meaning it was financed by patients’ purchases and so I’m really unhappy because I believe this group isn’t sticking by its patients in their time of need.

Perhaps the legal system will be better for patients in a couple of years but who knows- maybe not. However, it won’t be on Oct. 18, and in my view if a dispensary shuts down or stops serving their patients on Oct. 17-18 that’s not putting patients first at all.


How else would obtaining a permit keep you from placing “patients first”?

The challenges with getting a permit or serving patients after getting a permit are multiple. First of all, you can’t discuss cannabis if you’ve got a permit that is retail. So if a person comes in and says they’ve got cancer or another ailment and they need cannabis to help them, you’re not allowed to guide them discuss that with them because it’s a non-prescription merchandise and you can’t provide advice in that manner.

That’s a issue, and another significant issue is that the most medicinal cannabis products only won’t be available through the legal stores. The only thing being legalized are raw, smokeable buds and although buds have a lot of medicinal value, the real medicinal value of cannabis lies in capsules, extracts, edibles, suppositories, and those sorts of products.

The government say those items will be available in a year or so- and maybe they will be, and they won’t- and maybe there’ll be controls on their accessibility and potency. But in any event, for the coming year, patients rsquo;ve been relying to get those products are going to be out of luck if their dispensary transitions into the system.

So maybe in two or three years, patients will have better access than they do now, but in the short term and long term, patients who see their own dispensaries close or transition might have to visit another location or back to the street to get the medicinal products they require.

That’s really putting the success of your business and that’s not something I wish to do at our dispensary. We intend on continuing as we have for the past ten years to serve our patients and staying open.

I’m not willing to turn these people away and say we’ll no longer provide you with your medicine because we would like to get a permit. I&rsquo keep with what they require, supplying patients.

So hopefully, ACCR will adopt a policy that is more inclusive and that doesn’t threaten or remove dispensaries in the group that want to continue serving patients. It’s we and a very controversial issue ’ll have to find out what happens in the meeting.

So right now, is it like the government is essentially telling medical patients to either go online and get their cannabis from the email?

The legalization of cannabis in Canada does not affect the medical system at all. In the event you’re a medical cannabis user you’re supposed to go to your doctor and get the paperwork done, then you select an LP (licensed producer) and you purchase from them through the email.

That is a very tough system to access. It’s expensive and there’s the same taxes involved as there are for other users, you’t have to wait to get it in the mail, there’s limits on how much you can access, and it’s a big hassle.

So without altering that program, I anticipate that lots of physicians will be more reluctant to sign up medical paperwork and they’ll just tell patients, “Go to the legal marketplace and buy it at the shop. What are you bothering me ?

For some patients, that will work. If they just need dried buds, they could visit a legal shop once one opens into their neighbourhood- but there’s just going to be one open in Kamloops right off – and they’ll have better access to that. But that patient is in need of anything, or if that patient has questions and wants to speak to somebody about their cannabis use in a medical way other than bud , then they’ll be out of luck.

I truly feel that CAMCD or ACCR should be focusing on a continuum of care and make sure that patients have the medicine they need during this transition time and that they have access and not be told that they have to wait a year or more before we’re able to furnish them with these products that they desperately need.

A number of our members don’t have a year to wait- some might not even be alive in a year- and I’m not willing to cut them off in that manner.

I understand it’s a difficult time for a lot of dispensaries that are trying to serve their members and aren’t quite sure what to do and a lot of them are afraid.

But I really think we should be putting patients first and continue to serve them rather than simply focusing on our own needs.


Medical cannabis brought to you.

You mentioned on social websites that getting a permit would stop you from donating cannabis to the Overdose Prevention Site. Why is that?

We do all sorts of donations and we offer discounts and we give away a fair amount of cannabis to different classes, especially to a couple of different opioid substitution projects. In the event you’ve got a permit you’ve got to buy your cannabis from manufacturers that were accredited and you can & rsquo;t give it away and you can’t provide it tax-free to individuals. You can’t do any of these things!

You’t have to market it in accordance with the regulations and you’t have to charge all the proper taxes and you’ve got to control it in that manner. So making free cannabis readily available to medical users and individuals in the DTES who are heroin users or opioid addicts… that’s simply not going to be allowed and that I think that’s a number of the most important work that we do!

The people that we provide it to- for instance, outside the Overdose Prevention Site- they might not be registered patients with the government or their physicians, but they’re people who need medicinal cannabis, and we see ourselves as providing low-barrier medicinal cannabis to those in need, something that will not be possible for us to continue if we got a license from the BC government.

The government is making it very clear that they’re legalizing non-medical cannabis. What they call “recreational cannabis”, which is a term that I don’t like, and medicinal cannabis is just sold by us in our dispensary. It might be the identical solution, but if you come in and speak to us we can provide you medicinal guidance.

[Editor’s note: Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss ending the War on Drugs, the possibility of entheogenic herbs in harm reduction, his novel, and more!]


Published at Mon, 08 October 2018 17:28:24 +0000

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