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Cause of medical marijuana shortage? Simple supply and demand, says dispensary exec.

Medical marijuana patients may have noticed an increased difficulty in finding a particular product: traditional marijuana buds.

The leaf form of marijuana — often called “flower” so as to differentiate it from vapes, tinctures and other forms in which medical marijuana can be purchased — has been difficult to come by for the better part of six months.

At least that’s what George DeNardo, vice president of Mid-Atlantic operations for Columbia Care, says. The medical marijuana company has dispensaries in several states nationwide, including one each in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.

“In essence, over the past 25 weeks, yes, there has been shortages,” DeNardo said. “Not necessarily that the flower is not available; it’s the quantities that are available.”

Patients who have been cleared to use medical marijuana have probably noticed how difficult flower is to come by, with stores often finding it difficult to keep it on the shelves.

DeNardo chalks this up to a simple matter of supply and demand.

“It’s because of the expansion in the number of dispensaries,” he said. “There’s the same amount of flower over almost double the amount of dispensaries.”

DeNardo said that, despite the total number of shops selling product has nearly doubled, the amount of facilities who have been given grower-processor licenses has stayed roughly the same. Simply put, there are more people selling the product than there are making it.

A further complication is simply the amount of time that it takes to grow the product, with DeNardo saying it takes between 15 and 16 weeks for a plant to come to maturation and be able to be harvested.

Combined with the fact that Pennsylvania dispensaries can only sell product that was grown within the commonwealth, it leads to an increasingly small pool of resources.

What DeNardo did say, though, is that there are still plenty of other products available.

“We’re working hard to bring flower in, and keep up a selection of vape products,” he said. “We’re working to meet the patient’s needs.”

While DeNardo did say that most patients tend to prefer flower — another driving force behind the shortage — he said that other delivery methods like vape cartridges will still provide patients with the same effects.

“It’s just a different form,” he said. “It’s a matter of what the patients feel comfortable with.”

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December 2020