Like an ex popping out of the woodwork, it was just as unsettling to see an email from its team blowing up my phone.
“After taking some time to consider what was important, and learn about our patients (and ourselves), we are here to welcome you back and give you the care you have been waiting for,” read the email.
Maybe I’m still angry about the $77 million worth of cannabis that was destroyed instead of going to the patients who needed it. Or perhaps I’m salty on behalf of licence holders struggling to overcome pandemic setbacks while playing by the rules, and without the funding for a similar rebrand or comeback.
Imagine having the money to afford a second chance, execute an expensive rebrand, and the nerve to ask for patients to forgive, forget, and fork out $$$
— Ashley Keenan (@askcannaqueen) January 27, 2021
Why the regulatory scandal still stings
I was a CannTrust client long before I worked in the cannabis industry. In fact, I still have my old patient card.
My medical cannabis authorization was a changing point in my health and the card serves as keepsake for a monumental time. Before adult-use legalization, accessing medical cannabis was possible largely because of companies like CannTrust.
I still remember how I felt when the news broke that CannTrust was no longer authorized to provide patients with cannabis products. I watched the news unfold of fake walls, unregulated seeds and eventually a licence suspension from Health Canada.
My family, myself and my doctor all accepted cannabis as a medical treatment because it was safe, regulated and from a legal source.
This kind of intentional regulation skirting is the definition of profits over patients. Betrayal seems like a strong word but that really is how it felt. Patients without the knowledge, time or capacity to change producers were left without access to their medicine, even if it was just temporarily.
And beyond medical users, the rest of Canada’s newly formed legal cannabis industry suffered in the reputational fallout of CannTrust’s shady dealings.
While the company seems sincere in its effort to make amends through a renewed patient focus, I’m in no rush to return. CannTrust also has a swathe of litigation with former shareholders to get through before it can fully restoke faith in its corporate longevity.
At the end of the day, I’m a believer in second chances — but really the choice belongs to each patient.
After suspension, CannTrust helped patients transition to other producers
Despite the licence suspension, patients demonstrated considerable loyalty to the brand, not wanting to switch producers in hopes that CannTrust would be back, explains Ashleigh Brown, CEO of medical cannabis advocacy group SheCann.
Brown spent significant time helping SheCann members arrange to have their medical cannabis authorizations sent to new licence holders back in 2019. CannTrust was helpful and responsive following the suspension, she says, working with her to manage patients and transferring medical documents.
“They were very proactive — I think I met with them four times that week,” Brown says. “We’ve also been in contact several times as they got their licences reinstated. Actually, after another licence holder recently exited the space to focus on adult-use, CannTrust reached out again to see how they could support patients losing access to their medicine.”
So, besides a name tied to a troubled past, what’s the difference between CannTrust and estora?
estora is the medical brand of CannTrust, says CEO Greg Guyatt.
He shares in an email that estora will build on “CannTrust’s history of high-quality product offerings and award-winning customer service.”
estora offers new patient programming as part of its launch, which includes a pediatric program, a compassionate pricing program and a veteran’s discount.
“When we began to look at relaunching our medical business, we took a step back to learn more about our patients and partners, and build a new brand that really meets their needs,” Guyatt says. “estora reflects that exploration and those learnings from product selection, to customer care, to support tools.”
The company also has two brands in the recreational market, Liiv and Synr.g.
New brand, new chance?
“We’re really excited to be able to help patients access medical cannabis again. But it is about more than great products — we’re committed to showing every patient and partner that we’re here to support them individually and the medical cannabis market collectively every step of the way,” he continues.
According to Guyatt, it all comes down to the patients and reducing stigma around medical cannabis. He says estora is working with patients, partners, advocacy groups like SheCann, and healthcare professionals to develop its product portfolio and educational resources.
“We are proud to be working with these groups in the medical cannabis space because we know how important it is to be a part of the dialogue and the community around medical cannabis,” he adds. “It’s not only about helping educate patients and their loved ones but also about removing any stigma that may still remain.”
In the email sent to me and other former customers, estora says it’s a “privilege” to support patients in their journey. They’re right.
But does CannTrust deserve that privilege? And will patients be able to trust in them again as a supplier of cannabinoid medicines?
Time will tell, I suppose, but Brown makes a compelling point about access in the name of second chances.
“For me, it’s all about access and what patients need. If that’s estora, all good,” she says. “If not, [patients] have choices and good alternatives now. Health Canada is the regulator — the patient is the decision maker.”
Ultimately, we patients will choose what’s right for us. And rightfully so.
Top image via CannTrust