One more really good reason Ontario’s legal pot regime needs storefront dispensaries


Despite the fact Ontario recently announced a government monopoly on pot sales, dispensaries in the province are proving to be a valuable necessity in the fight against opioid addiction.

North America and much of the Western world are in the deadly grip of an opioid epidemic that’s taking hundreds of lives every day. Data has shown that in places where cannabis is legal, storefront dispensaries have been successful at curbing opioid abuse.

With that in mind, the B.C.-based Eden non-profit society, has partnered with Zach Walsh, a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in a joint “Opioid Substitution Program.” The program will use third-party tested THC capsules.

Eden had previously done its own study “to explore how we can assist our patients in substituting their opiate use,” says Tyler James, Eden’s director of community outreach, in an interview. 

It was an increase in marijuana purchases by addicts looking to quit opioids that sparked the study. “We saw a demand in the market from our patients who were opiate users,” he adds.

The new study is underway through Eden dispensaries in British Columbia, but its three Ontario locations (two of them in Toronto) are still looking for applicants.

Once a patient has completed a one-on-one consultation, Eden will assess the dosage of THC pills necessary. “We do follow-ups every week thereafter to see how they are improving before we issue additional capsules,” James says.

Best of all, those who qualify for this potentially life-saving program do so at no cost. Eden is covering the bill for both the program and the THC medicine.

At the moment, Eden is the only dispensary known to be embarking on this venture.

“I believe some other dispensaries are exploring it, but to my knowledge, I am unaware of any other programs going on,” says James.

UBC’s Walsh had this to say in a statement to the media on the results of the initial Eden study: “An emerging body of epidemiological data, suggest that cannabis warrants further investigation as a potential means by which some individuals might reduce, or even stop their opioid use.”

There are many in Ontario’s cannabis community who remain hopeful the provincial government will recognize the importance of having a collective mindset, as well as open channels with the whole marijuana community — instead of a monopoly on cannabis.

Perhaps proof that we have a treatment for opioid addiction will be enough.

A slightly different version of this story appears at @nowtoronto



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