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BC:Researchers behind dispensary users study want to know ho

by papapuff » Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:50 am

straight.com



Researchers behind dispensary users study want to know how, when, where, and why you buy cannabis

M-J Milloy says people want to talk about their cannabis use

by Amanda Siebert on June 20th, 2017

While the amount of data about cannabis and its various applications has been on the rise, information about the people who use it hasn't quite seen the same level of growth.

That's why a local research organization is looking to Vancouverites as it conducts the first study of its kind: the Vancouver Cannabis Dispensary Users Study will find out how, where, when and why cannabis users in the Lower Mainland access the most widely-used illicit drug on the planet.

"There's a really big gap in the scientific literature, as in, there are very, very few studies of cannabis use conducted among the general cannabis using population," said M-J Milloy, the research scientist at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) behind the organization's latest undertaking. He's also an assistant professor at UBC, a partner in the study, and a scientist with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Milloy added that most studies that have looked at users are quick to pathologize their use as dependent or problematic, where the BCCSU comes from the research-backed position that "the majority of cannabis use is not dependent, and that the harms of cannabis use are generally minor, and resolve without much intervention."

"There is a lot of benefit that people report about their cannabis use, both in medical and in non-medical senses, so we felt it was important to try and do a study which captured all of those things—which captures cannabis both as a source of harm, for some people, and a source of benefit for others," he said.

Of course, given Canada's looming cannabis legalization, Milloy and team believe there's no better time than now to be conducting such a study, especially because the federal government has said it wants to create drug policies that are evidence-based.

While the climate for dispensaries in other Canadian cities has proven to be very volatile, Vancouver's grey-area cannabis market has certainly been the most open to leaving cannabis storefronts be. Milloy said the network of dispensaries and users in the city made it an ideal location to conduct such a study.

"As with many things in the world of drugs and drug policy, we're very fortunate to live in Vancouver where we do have a number of policy makers and other leaders who are interested in harm reduction; who are interested in regulating drugs via public health rather than via public security, and as a researcher, this is a great place to do research," he said.

"People have been interested in a different way of viewing cannabis for decades in Vancouver. We're really just taking advantage of a great opportunity."

Having contacted dispensary owners ahead of the study's commencement, Milloy says he's confident many are not only interested in the health and well-being of their customers, but that they're also committed to taking a public health approach.

Pamphlets notifying users of the study can be found in many local dispensaries, and have been on display since February.

The in-depth, anonymous, and confidential survey looks at the full spectrum of cannabis, and asks questions about recreational, medical, and problematic use, as well as a person's behaviors, beliefs, reasons for use, perceived benefits, and experience of harms, like driving under the influence. It takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete, and those who do take part are entered to win a small prize.

The team hopes to have 1,000 survey participants by September 15.

Once they've examined the data generated by the survey, Milloy hopes to make it available to the public in a variety of ways, namely, through the media, but also by sharing it with policy makers.

"I think journalists have a very important role to play, and it's been really neat to see the rise of the journalists in the U.S. who are approaching it from a really different angle than the usual way that journalists talk about drugs, which is often stigmatizing and can get caught up in hysteria," he said.

"We obviously want to make this useful for policy makers, and we're reaching out to them in Victoria and Ottawa to see what they're interested in."

What's more, Milloy hopes that by sharing the data with those who have contributed to the survey, he'll give Vancouverites who use cannabis a little chance to look in the mirror.

"A lot of people have said this to me, and that's that they want to talk about their cannabis use," he said. "I think it's important to reflect communities back on themselves, so they know what's going on. It's important to give people education and to give them ways to reduce and avoid harm.

"I think by trying to understand how these harms arise, we can help inform efforts to reduce them, whether through community members, medical professionals, or whoever. That really starts with evidence, and that's what we're trying to generate."

To participate, email vancan@cfenet.ubc.ca to request a unique access code, and then proceed to the survey website.
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by papapuff » Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:50 am

theglobeandmail.com



Illegal cannabis dispensaries seen as safe, reliable: UBC study

MIKE HAGER
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jul. 11, 2017

Medical-cannabis patients who use illegal cannabis dispensaries instead of turning to other legal and black-market sources do so because they feel safe at these shops and like that they have reliable supplies of the specific strains they want, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Rielle Capler, a PhD student and the study’s lead author, said the results can help give Ottawa and provincial governments an idea of what consumers want as they look toward legalizing the drug some time next year.

“We’ve seen that dispensaries are part of the legal system in other jurisdictions, in the States where they have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, and we’ve had a natural experiment, in a way, going on in Canada for the past 20 years,” said Ms. Capler, who started working with the B.C. Compassion Club Society in 1999 before going into academia. “So we’re hoping that this research can help inform governments as they consider what distribution will look like after legalization and take into account the patient and user’s perspective.”

Ms. Capler’s team surveyed 445 self-identified adult medical-cannabis users and found those who visited dispensaries (215) were more likely to be older Canadians living with HIV/AIDS or arthritis. The study, published in the September issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy, also showed that roughly 90 per cent of those that went to dispensaries rated these shops “good” or “very good” on a range of topics including quality of products, safety, efficiency availability of cannabis and whether they felt respected.

The price of pot at these illegal dispensaries – which for the most part has remained on par with Health Canada’s medical mail-order system in recent years – was the only category where dispensaries didn’t outperform other ways of getting cannabis: buying from a friend, growing it legally yourself, having someone else grow it for you legally, purchasing from a street dealer and ordering it from a federally approved commercial grower.

The study mostly involved participants from British Columbia and Ontario and relies on interviews from 2011 to 2012, before the medical-cannabis laws were twice overhauled. During that time, just one company – Prairie Plant Systems – provided this legal medicine and just a dozen or so illegal dispensaries were operating across the country.

Still, Ms. Capler argues, these are the options still available to cannabis patients, albeit at a much larger scale with the explosion in both licensed producers and illegal cannabis shops.

Ms. Capler said new research is forthcoming on how and why people are using Vancouver’s dozens of dispensaries as legalization approaches.

The federal cannabis legislation unveiled earlier this year left the question of where cannabis may be sold entirely up to provinces and municipalities. This could mean, as with alcohol sales, that consumers across Canada might have vastly different ways of buying recreational marijuana.

A federal task-force report informing the government’s legalization push recommended against selling the drug in liquor stores, noting concerns that mixing alcohol and marijuana leads to higher levels of intoxication.

But politicians in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario floated the idea of selling cannabis at such government-run outlets and have voiced their displeasure with the scofflaws running cannabis shops in their provinces.

Canada’s several hundred dispensaries all operate outside the federal government’s medical-marijuana program, which permits about 40 industrial-scale growers to sell dried flowers and bottles of cannabis oil directly to patients through the mail.

The UBC study also found that dispensary customers were more likely to have discussed cannabis with their doctors and received authorization from Health Canada to use the drug. Ms. Capler said 2013 research from a UBC team led by Prof. Zach Walsh found about 75 per cent of those authorized by the government to use medical cannabis also visited dispensaries.
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