Paging Dr. Dispensary

Study investigates the role of cannabis dispensaries in facilitating medicinal cannabis usage.

Compassion clubs and marijuana dispensaries in B.C., in particularly in Vancouver and Victoria, have been at the forefront of the movement to legalize and regulate cannabis in Canada. With such organizations having operated in Vancouver longer than in any other Canadian city, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) clinician scientist Dr. Amrish Joshi wanted to study the relationship between cannabis dispensaries and the patients seeking out cannabis for their health conditions.

“We know that compassion clubs in particular have played a huge role in the lives of patients–they’ve been filling a need for people who really felt like they couldn’t access medications for their chronic illnesses,” explains Dr. Joshi, a VCH palliative physician member of the Richmond Integrated Hospice Palliative Care Team. “Some patients and doctors acknowledge their reliance on the support and knowledge provided by dispensaries and compassion clubs.”

Dr. Joshi is embarking on a study that will survey a minimum of 30 cannabis dispensaries in both Metro Vancouver and Victoria. The survey includes a total of 20 questions that will be analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Dr. Joshi hopes that the responses will expand knowledge around how dispensary staff educate themselves about the medicinal uses of cannabis, what information they pass on to clients, how cannabis providers counsel individuals seeking cannabis for their health conditions, the types of conditions they’re asked to help treat, and the kinds of questions patients ask. 

Dr. Amrish Joshi’s current research hopes to highlight the attitudes and beliefs of medicinal cannabis dispensaries within Metro Vancouver and Victoria, and how they cannot be seen in isolation from the care given by other health care providers.

“At the end of the day this study is about facilitating the care we provide to palliative patients and other patients going to dispensaries. And this is also about the support and education physicians may need when it comes to prescribing medicinal marijuana.”

The study builds on Dr. Joshi’s previous research showing that medicinal and recreational uses of cannabis need to be disentangled when considering evidence based prescribing. 

“Poor education and misinformation has resulted in conflict between societal concerns and best medical treatment. These influences impact how patients may ask for or get access to medicinal cannabis and how physicians support their patients in accessing medicinal cannabis.” 

Dr. Joshi’s previous study was conducted with palliative care patients and palliative care doctors. Findings showed that there was apprehension from both patients and physicians in using medicinal cannabinoids for care, but palliative physicians demonstrated a unique viewpoint—they were able to balance potential conflicts and remain open-minded. 


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