In this presentation, we looked more closely at how community based cannabis distribution programs influence access and feasibility of cannabis as a "substitution" or harm reduction tool by drawing on in-depth qualitative research from 2018-19. While the potential utility of cannabis as a harm reduction tool continues to be debated in the scientific literature, less focus has been placed on compassionate access and attending to barriers around access, particularly for individuals who are marginally housed or those experiencing homelessness. Additionally, this presentation discussed how these programs may be filling a gap, where individuals reported instrumental uses and qualifying medical conditions, but are largely excluded from the legal market. As a critical low barrier option for many living in the DTES, we considered the importance of these low barrier, novel strategies that may support, prevent and reduce harmful drug use. Finally, this presentation shared some themes around how cannabis was being utilized by people who use drugs, centralizing their perspectives regarding the use of cannabis for harm reduction.
Jenna Valleriani is currently Director of Patient Advocacy on the Social Purpose and Advocacy team at Canopy Growth. Prior to this, she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine and BC Centre on Substance Use on the Qualitative and Community Based Research team. Her research looked at the use of cannabis among people who use drugs as a harm reduction strategy to reduce or manage other illicit substance use, and legal access to cannabis. She received her PhD from the University of Toronto in 2017, and her dissertation focused on the emerging commercial cannabis market, and the role of activist and illicit medical cannabis dispensary operators in that transition. Previously, she was also the CEO of the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education (NICHE), a not-for-profit established to support the development of public policy and research, and continues to work as a Strategic Advisor with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.