A longtime perk of the medical cannabis industry is going away. Ever since medical cannabis went into effect in Colorado, patients have favored a law that has allowed them to seek caregivership from a medical dispensary. The reason is this—each cannabis patient is allowed to cultivate six cannabis plants in their homes. If they chose not to grow them, the patient may sign them over to a medical dispensary of their choice, meaning they become a member at one store, in exchange for benefits, which varied from store to store.
Members were offered anything from a price reduction to free product every so often. For example, Bonfire Cannabis in Denver offered $80 ounces of flower and $8 edibles. Doctors Orders on W. 38th offered its member patients a free quarter ounce every 90 days. So, every patient who signed over their standard six plant allotment to a dispensary meant that store could grow that many more plants and, in turn, patients received compensation of sorts.
That law piggybacked with the vertical integration law, which stated that dispensaries were required to grow half of the cannabis they sold and could acquire the other half through wholesale deals. Plain and simple—the more patients a medical dispensary could sign up, the more product they were able to grow. Both the caregiver and vertical laws came to an end on July 1, leaving some patients to wonder if they will still get a break on cannabis.
Numbers show that the majority of medical cannabis patients utilized the caregiver system to receive benefits. So, how does this affect those patients? The truth is that some dispensaries have already done away with caregiver discounts, but those who still offer deals to patients say that this could be a good thing in helping lower overall prices to keep competition healthy. Others have said this will simplify the business by not requiring dispensaries to keep track of so much patient info. Lastly, doing away with caregiver rights could help boost supply and demand issues that the medical industry has been experiencing.
Colorado medical cannabis patient Michael Carraco told CULTURE that he became extremely worried learning about the ending of caregiver benefits at medical dispensaries. He wondered if his medicine would still be affordable now that his member perks went away. Carraco, who lives with a fixed income, uses cannabis to facilitate pain relief and also help cope with post-traumatic-stress-disorder. “I looked forward to receiving my discount every month, and it kept me loyal at my dispensary,” he said.
Nathan Myers, co-owner at Denver’s Bonfire Cannabis explained that his company would still honor discounts and strive for the best prices. “Now that there aren’t patient sign ups, everyone gets member benefits, which is super low pricing all around.” Bonfire has reduced the price of its flower, concentrates and edibles to match the caregiver discount once in play.
“Now that there aren’t patient sign ups, everyone gets member benefits, which is super low pricing all around.”
It will take time for patients and dispensaries alike to get through this transition. Cannabis industry workers hope that the medical patients who really need cannabis come out benefiting from this change in the long run with lower prices. The Marijuana Enforcement Division reminded everyone that patient discounts and membership deals are not forbidden, but that they are no longer required for dispensaries to grow extra product.
Patients are still allowed to sign their plants over to an individual grower who is registered with the Medical Marijuana Registry as a Cultivating Caregiver.