Saturday, May 9, 2015

To Understand the BC Bud Bu$ine$$, go to New York

All Natural

 Photo is Brendan Kennedy, CEO, Privateer Holdings, your major Canadian (medical) marijuana supplier

“My father was the first entrepreneur in the family,” Rohan Marley, the sixth of Bob Marley’s eleven children, said the other day. “He started his own record label, his own restaurant. He knew that, in order to give something back to the people, he had to create. You can’t be no philanthropist, no Warren Buffett, unless you make something first.”

Rohan, who is forty-two, is also an entrepreneur. He has a leadership role in several of his family’s businesses, including House of Marley (headphones, speakers), Zion Rootswear (T-shirts, onesies), and Marley Coffee. The family’s newest venture, which will launch next year, is called Marley Natural. “It’s a particular plant,” Rohan said, of the company’s inventory. “One that grows naturally next to the mango tree, the mint, the paprika. The Hindu sages speak of it. The rabbis speak of it.” It is marijuana.

Marley Natural is a partnership between the Marley estate and Privateer Holdings, “a private equity firm shaping the future of the legal cannabis industry.” (Privateer owns one of the largest providers of medical marijuana in Canada.) In a video on, a camera rushes toward verdant mountains. “He advocates for the positive power of the herb,” a voice-over says. Bob Marley, in archival footage, flips his dreadlocks. The logo is a Lion of Judah between two green leaves. 

Rohan, who recently shaved his dreadlocks, wore a ruffled white shirt and a porkpie hat. He sat in the company’s new office, on the Bowery. Around the table were Brendan Kennedy, the C.E.O. of Privateer, and James Estime, Marley’s valet. “Three Little Birds” played on a House of Marley stereo. “James, turn the music down,” Rohan said. Estime, a burly man wearing a winter vest, picked up Marley’s iPhone and lowered the volume.

Marley grew up in Jamaica, and moved to the U.S. at the age of twelve. He was a star linebacker at the University of Miami, even though he was shorter than most of his teammates, who included Ray Lewis and Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson. (“Bob’s boys, we’re not scared of tall mountains,” Marley said.) Later, he toured with the Melody Makers, his siblings’ reggae band. “I was practicing to become a drummer,” Marley said. “Unfortunately, at that time I was with a woman who thought my drumming was shit. She killed my spirit to be a musician.” Her name is Lauryn Hill. They are no longer together. In 1999, he bought a coffee plantation in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Kennedy got an M.B.A. from Yale and worked for an affiliate of Silicon Valley Bank. “My job was to study niche industries,” Kennedy said. “One day, I heard a pitch from a company in the medical-cannabis space, and I went, ‘This is a forty-billion-dollar market, and no one’s taking it seriously.’ ” He left the bank and started Privateer.

“We’d been approached by one million people about selling Bob Marley pipes, lighters, you name it,” Marley said. The Marleys turned them all down, until Creative Artists Agency, which represents the family, set up a meeting with Privateer. “When I met this guy”—he gestured toward Kennedy—“I knew: This is the man.” Kennedy shrugged appreciatively.

“We’re looking at four to six botanical strains, at first,” Kennedy said.

“The quality of the herb is very important to us,” Marley said. Marley Natural plans to sell smokable cannabis in countries where it is legal—the Netherlands, Uruguay—and, perhaps, in Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, and Alaska. “We’ll also offer a line of topical creams,” Kennedy said.

A Privateer employee interrupted with a bit of news: the Oxford English Dictionary had just named “vape” the word of the year. A plan was formed: a trip to a nearby vaping lounge, where e-cigarettes are sold and sampled. Marley Natural plans to carry smoking accessories, and Kennedy believes in market research.

“You guys go,” Marley said. “It’s too cold for that shit.” Eventually, he was persuaded. Estime helped him with his coat.

At the Henley Vaporium, in Nolita, Marley sat at the “e-cig bar” and browsed a menu of flavors—Psychotherapy, Stop and Frisk, Cereal Killa. Justin Haber, the “vapologist” on duty, took apart an e-cigarette to show how it worked.

“Can you smoke anything you want out of that?” Kennedy asked.

Haber stiffened. “Hypothetically, if you had the proper—why are you asking?”

“Don’t worry, brother,” Marley said. “We’re starting a company, selling the herb aboveboard. Called Marley Natural. I’m one of Bob’s boys, you understand?”

Haber arched his brows. “All legal?”

“Hundred per cent,” Marley said.

“In that case, fuck yeah,” Haber said. “A couple drops of hash oil in the tank, you’re good to go. Just be careful—that shit hits you like a Mack truck to the face.”

Marley laughed. “Let me try that American Pie flavor, brother,” he said.

Monday, May 4, 2015

4 PHARMACIES (let's call them DRUG STORES) almost $3Million from PHARMACARE for METHADONE

The B.C. government is taking steps to crack down on problem pharmacies, including those that rack up PharmaCare payments by catering almost exclusively to methadone patients.
That practice has helped make methadone and its associated fees the second-biggest drug expense for B.C.’s drug plan and resulted in clusters of methadone-dispensing pharmacies in parts of Surrey and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Pharmacies can make almost $6,500 a year in fees per patient dispensing methadone and up to an additional $13,800 a year dispensing other drugs to the same patient. The hefty amounts were noted in a review that was prepared for the Ministry of Health in January – a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

“Until this regulation, it could be hard for the ministry to deny or cancel the enrolment of a pharmacy that was taking advantage of vulnerable patients, or breaking PharmaCare’s billing rules,” Ministry of Health spokeswoman Cindy MacDougall said in an e-mail. “It was also hard to make sure pharmacies weren’t employing or owned by people who had previously broken PharmaCare billing rules or lost their licence to practise pharmacy.”

The new enrolment regulation falls under the Pharmaceutical Services Act of 2012 and was enacted last November and so has been on the horizon for some time. The January review stated that most people on methadone – which is prescribed to treat addiction to heroin or other narcotic drugs – are on other medications, creating a powerful financial incentive for pharmacists to dole out methadone and other medicines on a daily basis.

B.C. features one of the highest fees in Canada for dispensing the drug, at $10 a day, and is only one of three jurisdictions in Canada that provides a fee – $7.70 a day – for witnessing ingestion. By comparison, Saskatchewan pays $3.50 a day and the federal Non-insured Health Benefits Program pays $4.60 a day for a witnessed ingestion.

The review said methadone-related PharmaCare costs have grown by an average 7.6 per cent a year since the methadone payment program was introduced in 2001 and now make up the second-highest drug expense for PharmaCare, accounting for $44-million in costs last year.
Professional fees – for dispensing and witnessing ingestion – account for about 88 per cent of that amount.

B.C.’s methadone maintenance program was set up in 2001 to improve access to methadone treatment for people around the province. The Ministry of Health, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C, and the College of Pharmacists of B.C. each oversee different aspects of the program.

In 2010, the Ministry of Health and the College of Pharmacists ran a joint investigation of Lower Mainland pharmacies that looked into issues such as improper billing and inducements to customers. In an update, the province says six pharmacies lost their PharmaCare access and subsequently closed, one pharmacy was sold and one case is still in process.

Clusters of methadone pharmacies have popped up in several areas, including parts of Surrey and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. That neighbourhood contains four of the 20 highest-billing methadone pharmacies in the province; together, those four pharmacies received $2.9-million in PharmaCare payments, most in professional fees, last year, the review states.

One methadone client, who gave her name as Ariana, said she is now dealing with a well-run pharmacy that does not offer inducements, which can include things such as bus passes and coupons for fast-food restaurants.

That has not always been the case. Saying she has been on methadone for 10 years, she named one pharmacy that paid her $20 a week to fill her methadone prescription and $5 a week for each of her three other medications.

“They are preying on us, who are in poverty – and they get rich,” Ariana said.

The January review cautioned against any quick changes, saying methadone maintenance treatment is complex and “any hasty changes to its service delivery, [Methadone Maintenance Payment Program] or otherwise, could have immediate and detrimental impact on methadone patients – an already extremely vulnerable population.”

The review said consultation with stakeholders would begin in early 2015.