People who turn to illegal cannabis dispensaries for their medicine do so because they feel safe there, and because these shops offer reliable supplies of the specific strains they want, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia say the study’s results can help the Canadian and provincial governments understand what consumers want as they prepare for next year’s legalization.

“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 Rielle Capler, a PhD student and the study’s lead author.

“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.”

Researchers surveyed 445 adult medical cannabis users and discovered that those who frequented dispensaries (215) were more likely to be older Canadians with HIV/AIDS or arthritis. The study, which was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, also found that about 90 percent of those who went to dispensaries rated them as “good” or “very good” in terms of product quality, safety, efficiency, availability of cannabis and whether they felt respected.

Cost was the only category where dispensaries lost out to other methods of getting cannabis: buying from a friend, growing it yourself or having someone else grow for you, purchasing from a street dealer or ordering it from a federally approved commercial grower.

The study, which relied on interviews from 2011 to 2012 and mostly involved people from British Columbia and Ontario, also found that dispensary customers were more likely to have discussed cannabis with their doctors and gotten authorization from Health Canada to use it.  

Capler said 2013 research from another UBC team found that roughly 75 percent of those authorized by the government to use cannabis also frequented dispensaries.

h/t The Globe and Mail