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November 30, 2022


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Aphria’s (APH.V) veteran pricing scam leads to cannabis industry split

The Canadian government is getting gouged on its veteran medical marijuana program, and a VICE News investigation has revealed the likely culprits.

According to figures provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, the number of retired soldiers obtaining medical marijuana from the government saw a staggering 15-fold increase over just three years, with a corresponding 50-time increase in cost.

That’s how the Vice investigation into medical marijuana pricing for veterans begins, but the lede is totally buried in those first two paragraphs. That Canada would be spending a lot more money to cover a lot more veterans for medical marijuana isn’t exactly news. That certain companies have been exploiting that situation to charge the government above and beyond for that medicine is the real scam – and it’s one that has fractured the local industry in just a few days.

Vice found certain LPs were presenting veterans with different websites than non-veterans were seeing, with cheaper medicines omitted for the vets and in some cases pricing hidden.

Kurt logged onto the Aphria site, which offers a sleek, easy-to-navigate online shop, and chose several strains, paying upwards of $12 per gram.

Later, his wife stumbled onto Aphria’s main site, the one available to the general public. It turns out that, as a veteran, several products were hidden from view entirely.

“Kurt, this is beyond cheaper,” she recalls telling him. Strains were offered for as low as $4 per gram. Some of those strains were exactly what Kurt was looking for — lower in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. When they called Aphria to ask if they could switch to the other site, they were told it would be impossible.

“What do you care?” Kurt recalls the Aphria representative telling him over the phone. “You don’t pay for it anyway.” Kurt, partly in protest, switched vendors and says he’s charging $800 to $1,000 less per month now on the public health plan.

To be sure, this story is anecdotal. Maybe the Aphria rep said that, maybe they didn’t. Maybe the rep was off-script, maybe not. But just presenting vets with the most expensive strains and not allowing them to see others, that’s bullshit, brutal, and scandalous. That’s not an isolated rep saying the wrong thing, that’s corporate misdirection and exploitation for which Aphria should be horrified and ashamed.

I’ve been a big Aphria supporter for months now. I saw them as a real adult in the space and saw their recent moves as strong indicators that they’d be on target to become one of a handful of giants parts that make up Big Cannabis going forward, but since this story has come out, Aphria has offered no news release to explain the situation or deny the situation. They’ve remained silent.

Which, again, is bullshit.

The day the Vice story landed, I tweeted that I was selling my Aphria stock and that the company needed to handle the situation immediately. It has preferred silence, and so it should be called out publicly by all.

The last thing the legitimate cannabis industry needs at a formative time like this is anyone, big or small, but especially big like Aphria, to be scamming the government and veterans. The veteran market is the way in for real insurance coverage, across the board, and the blossoming of the cannabis industry into what it could and should be. It only needs to play by the rules and wait for said rules to liberalize, and everyone will make bank.

Aphria’s moves are bush league stuff. They put a black eye on themselves, and the industry proper, and now the Veterans Affairs minister Kent Hehr has announced he will scale back the allowable prescription levels for veterans to reign in the runaway costs.

Translated: Vets will be allowed only 3 grams per day, and will be covered up to $8.50 per gram.

The Auditor General found one doctor was prescribing 29% of Canada’s medical marijuana prescriptions for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. No prizes for guessing where they were being sent.

In response, Canopy Growth Corp (CGC.V), which is currently being shorted to hell and back, and the drop in which has brought about a sector-wide plummet in the last few days, has taken a break from bailing water and announced it will pull out of the industry representing Cannabis Canada Association.

We do not operate separate websites for veterans. We do not oblige veterans to purchase higher-priced cannabis products, while hiding access to lower priced cannabis products. We do not charge a different price to veterans, and we do not hide pricing from veterans. Every veteran who registers with Tweed or Bedrocan Canada receives access to the exact same products at the exact same pricing as every other customer.

Though we serve hundreds of Canadian veterans, veterans represent only 2% of Canopy Growth’s combined client base of tens of thousands of Canadians. The Company does not foresee these policy changes having a material impact on sales or customer growth. Tweed and Bedrocan Canada attract and retain our veteran clientele the same way we attract all our other customers: with quality customer service, and a wide and diverse product selection. We are proud to serve our veterans and would never jeopardize the trust our veterans place in us, or attempt to artificially increase pricing at the expense of the Canadian taxpayer.

To ensure that Canopy can effectively voice its opinion on this and other pressing issues facing our sector, our Company has elected to withdraw its memberships from Cannabis Canada Association.

That Canopy has done more to answer for this scam than Aphria is both applause-worthy (for Canopy) and gross (for Aphria).

And, as if that wasn’t reason enough to give Canopy a golf clap, there’s this standup move:

Tweed and Bedrocan Canada are pleased to immediately commit that up to the specified daily amount approved, our companies will ensure full coverage for all of our products regardless of the price, so that veterans continue to have access to a full range of products to meet their needs, including cannabis oils. Any cost differential between our store price and the coverage by Veterans Affairs will be covered by Tweed and Bedrocan Canada, respectively, so that we subsidize our veterans and not the other way around.

That’s how you do it.

Yesterday, I talked to folks from Canabo Medical (CMM.V), a chain of cannabis clinics that charge Health Canada a consultation fee, like any other medical clinic, educate their patients about what strains to use and how they should use them, do ongoing research with their patients to monitor the efficacy of what’s being used and prescribed, educate doctors into proper dosage, effects, usage, and ailments that can be assisted, and take no referral fee at all from LPs for passing patients on to them.

That group is following not just industry best practice, but medical best practice in helping to build out a legitimate industry that could be just a few steps away from being completely insurance-covered. They’re consulting with large companies that know they need medical marijuana policies. They’re gathering patient data at the source and monitoring trends in the industry, and what’s working best, and what’s working for who. That’s a building block for a genuine marijuana sector that can move this whole industry forward.

Aphria, if anything, has damaged the sector. And it’ll be the veterans who now qualify for less who bear the brunt of their hubris.

For shame, Aphria. For shame.

— Chris Parry

FULL DISCLOSURE: Someone else owns my Aphria stock now, which is down 20% on the day. Sorry for your loss.

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18 thoughts on “Aphria’s (APH.V) veteran pricing scam leads to cannabis industry split”

    1. Definitely helped, thank you. I think I finally learned my lesson, no more chasing green, I’m only buying on red days, selling on green, for the most part. These patterns are getting somewhat predictable now

  1. This is a promotional article for CGC, with clear bias and motive. These are unfounded allegations.

    Perhaps we should investigate Vice’s ties to CGC and Bruce Linton. And your motive for writing this article Chris.

    1. You go ahead and investigate anything you want, sir. My motive for writing the article is exactly what I said it was. Aphria did a shitty thing. And rather than put their hand up to it and apologize, and make it right, they’ve hunkered down and started talking to damage control firms.
      There’s little doubt CGC pushed the barrow that brought this to the public eye, but my public and ongoing writings about CGC have been anything but promotional, which you’d see if you bothered to do the first piece of actual searching.

    2. This post is a promotional comment for Aphria with clear bias and motive. These are unfounded allegations. Perhaps we should investigate Ben’s amount of shares he holds in Aphria. And his motive for writing this article Ben.

  2. How do expect LP’s like Tweed to fare well when rec comes when they sell out in a day with only 20,000 customers to feed.

    Besides BC Bud OWNS the market down.

  3. Wow, things sure are getting interesting… I, for one, am happy to see you finally warm a little to CGC (baby steps). 😉
    So I’m confused… APH owns a small piece of CannaRoyalty and want first dibs in Canada yet Chuck Rifici is soon-to-be appointed BOD of CRC. How’s that gonna play out when epic rivalry brewing between the big three (Canopy, Aphria and Aurora). Conflict much?
    Was never big on APH while you were singing their praises but recently Arlene won me over. This screw up is very disappointing but while others are moving money out I took advantage of discounted price at bought deal the other day. Even the best have made mistakes and I’m betting/hoping they learn from this big one and eventually come back stronger. Not sure how they could gain the rep in the industry as best managed and then go down without a fight. Didn’t most industry people already know about this long before it gained media attention? If it doesn’t work out I’m always happy to shovel more money into the Canopy. Well played, Bruce.

    1. Oh btw, CMM is the clinic I use. They are legit. Incredibly thankful for them especially when hearing all kinds of shady things about other clinic networks. They don’t even charge a fee it’s covered so I looked up the fee other clinics charge and invested that amount into their stock as gratitude for all the hard work they do for patients (didn’t know they were public until now). Can’t wait to hear more from you about them!

  4. Health Canada should pull their license. They fucked the Vets and ruined our access. I wasn’t happy with the inconsistency of the percentage as well as offerings. They were always out of something I needed. I switched to MedReleaf, and haven’t looked back. I’m not even sure now that I was getting what the label said, from Aphria. Not one vet should be dealing with them. It was their shenanigans that put the spotlight on us. CHANGE PROVIDERS> Teach them a lesson and show the government that we weren’t responsible and people fuck with us at their peril. Medreleaf will cover the difference in what VAC pays and the actual cost also.

    1. You switched to a LP that was supposedly doing the exact same thing. Like MedReleaf, Aphria has also now said they will cover the difference. Best wishes!

  5. Med releaf did the same to me. I was a client waiting g for DVA coverage. My ordering options included strains from $5.00-$15.00 a gram. Once my DVA coverage started I was limited to only the $12.50-$15.00 a gram strains. I called and asked about it and was told that because of my symptoms those were the only strains available to me. Total BS.

  6. Looks like Emblem hype took a bit of a negative detour in the media today. Will John Stewart resume come back to bite a company trying to do good and improve the lives of patients… thoughts? As devastating as this is he does bring experience to the table that could help further the role of cannabis as medicine and legitimize.
    Imagine the headlines and pushback if/when Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or Big Alcohol does try to stomp all over this industry. Perhaps they can pull off some stealth takeovers without cannabis activists, patients or consumers noticing?

    1. I don’t think it hurt them at all. The story was more about Oxycontin than Stewart, and if the treatise is it has hurt many people, you have to measure that against the x100 more that it has helped. If Stewart turns Emblem into Oxy II, I’ll be in as an investor.

      1. My sentiments exactly. Thanks for the feedback. Would love to hear you tell Stewart’s comeback story once Emblem succeeds at making the world a better place.

    2. Lol so now APH and ACB are making digs and addressing this latest banned pesticide issue to the public before CGC/MT, while MT chose to quietly speak to patients only and push under the rug. I’m bullish on all 3 of the big players but this is karma. Don’t see how any different from how APH dealt with veteran scandal. They all make mistakes and come back from them in time. Waiting for more sensationalist, overblown articles… not from you of course. 😛 So I guess this month APH is now the good guy and CGC/MT are in the dog house. Sure glad I bought APH when everyone was hating on them. Guess this means time to watch for CGC buying opp. 🙂

    3. I used to have Aphria as my LP, but I was in the same situation as “Kurt”… the (better for my needs)strains were in the other side of the Veteran’s Wall and not until after coverage was lowered by VAC and Blue Cross I had access to the cheaper strains. So now I am much happier with Broken Coast as they have better strains and most are around 8 – 9 dollars a gram.

    4. Let’s be honest, who in the heck can smoke 10grams per day. Let’s see at Medreleaf with an average price of $12.50-15/g is 125-150/day yes per day. That is lets see $45 625 to $54 750 CHA CHING MedReleaf. No one folks can smoke 10 grams is roughly 30 joints/day on regular basis, but if the governemtn bought me $10 grams everyday, I sure as hell could make a killing selling it couldn’t I? The Vets deserved to be reigned in, they were out of control and so are the LP’s. Licensed Greed is what we have, none of these folks cares about patients…profits on the other hand is all they dream of;)

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