Why Do Marijuana Dispensaries (aka Cannabis Clubs or Clinics) Exist?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor's Note: The term cannabis "club" is often used to describe an organization that provides medical marijuana to patients under the recommendation of a physician. Alternate names for such facilities include: buyers' club, caregivers' club, collective, cooperative, dispensary, farm, holistic health center, non-profit resource center, pot club, store, and wellness center.]

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) stated the following in its Sep. 2006 report titled "Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation" (3.25 MB) available on its website:

"Medical cannabis dispensing collectives (dispensaries) are the subject of considerable debate by planning and other local officials. Dispensaries have been operating openly in many communities since the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. As a compassionate, community-based response to the problems patients face in trying to access cannabis, dispensaries are currently used by more than half of all patients in the state and are essential to those most seriously ill or injured...

The majority of medical marijuana (cannabis) patients cannot cultivate their medicine for themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them. Most of California's estimated 200,000 patients [as of 2006] obtain their medicine from a Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collective (MCDC), often referred to as a 'dispensary.' Dispensaries are typically storefront facilities that provide medical cannabis and other services to patients in need...

In an effort to clarify the voter initiative of 1996 and aid in its implementation across the state, the California legislature enacted Senate Bill 420 in 2004, which expressly states that qualified patients and primary caregivers may collectively or cooperatively cultivate cannabis for medical purposes (Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11362.775). This provision has been interpreted by the courts to mean that dispensing collectives, where patients may buy their medicine, are legal entities under state law."

Sep. 2006 - Americans for Safe Access (ASA) 

Harvey W. Feldman, PhD, and R. Jerry Mandel, PhD, stated in their Apr.-June 1998 article titled "Providing Medical Marijuana: The Importance of Cannabis Clubs," published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs:

"The concept of a cannabis club is the invention of Dennis Peron, a San Francisco marijuana dealer since 1973 who became converted to the cause of medical use of cannabis when his gay lover, a young man with AIDS, found relief from symptoms with regular marijuana use.

Peron's concept was to provide not only a cafeteria of cannabis products - including marijuana of varying potencies, cannabis pastries, and smoking paraphernalia - but to create a lifespace where persons with life-threatening or seriously debilitating diseases could gather, relax, and consume their medications in an accepting, friendly, and colorful surrounding."

Apr.-June 1998 - Harvey W. Feldman, PhD 
Jerry S. Mandel, PhD 

The Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit drug reform advocacy group, told ProCon.org in a Dec. 20, 2001 email:

"Ideally, medical marijuana would be grown by FDA-licensed producers and made available to patients through drug stores in the same manner that other drugs are made available. Until federal law changes, however, the safest way for patients to obtain marijuana -- in states where it is legally permissible -- is for them to:

  • grow it themselves,
  • have a primary caregiver grow it for them
  • obtain it from a reputable patient cooperative (often referred to as a buyers' club).
These three alternatives can provide patients with a known product, free of adulterants."

Dec. 20, 2001 - Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) 

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated in its Mar. 27, 2001 testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform: Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources:

"California has now become the home of several 'cannabis' clubs that openly distribute marijuana to anyone who the club owners decide has a 'medical' need for the drug. In some jurisdictions, local sheriffs have given groups advance permission to grow marijuana while state judges have ordered law enforcement officials to return marijuana seized from criminal defendants who claim to be handling the drug for 'medical' reasons. Even where local police have made arrests and seizures, there have been numerous instances where local district attorneys have been unwilling to prosecute because the defendants supposedly complied with the 'spirit' of Proposition 215."

Mar. 27, 2001 - US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 

Medicalmarihuana.ca, a resource project by the individuals who own Island Harvest, a Canadian "federally and provincially licenced certified organic marijuana production facility," stated in its article "2006: Compassion Clubs and Cannabis Clubs in Canada" (accessed Nov. 2, 2006):

"In Canada, there are clubs that provide a variety of strains of cannabis, as well as other cannabis products such as baked goods and other edibles, tinctures, oils, concentrates, capsules, and sprays, as well as organic* (not certified) cannabis.

These clubs are referred to as compassion clubs, cannabis clubs, or buyers' clubs. They vary in size, organizational structure and the services they provide. Some clubs are very well established and are registered as not-for-profit societies.

It is important for you to know that the clubs are NOT LEGAL in Canada. Their status and their potential role in the distribution of medicinal cannabis are still being debated. They are NOT part of the federal medical cannabis program.

This is NOT a legal source of cannabis. The people who run clubs are usually quite knowledgeable about the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Some clubs have developed standards of operations by which they self-regulate, though at this time there are no uniform standards by which all clubs operate."

Nov. 2, 2006 - MedicalMarihuana.ca