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Many Dispenseroo customers buying cannabis for medical reasons, says founder

What does the success of the illegal startup say about the current state of play?



Dispenseroo founder reveals ‘many customers’ use cannabis for medical reasons
Dispenseroo offers a home delivery service for high-THC cannabis products. Photo by Kindel Media/Pexels

Illegal UK cannabis startup, Dispenseroo, has revealed that many customers are using its products to treat medical conditions. What does its so-called success say about the current state of play?

The founder of the online dispensary – who goes by the name of ‘S’ – claims the site has been ‘overwhelmed’ with orders for its illegal high-THC cannabis products in recent months, amid an ongoing legal battle and recently-announced rebrand.

Dispenseroo first hit the headlines when unauthorised adverts for the brand were spotted across the London tube network last year. ‘S’ has subsequently given a number of interviews to mainstream publications claiming to sell tens of thousands of pounds worth of products a week.

In December, the takeaway giant Deliveroo, confirmed that it was taking legal action over the ‘obvious and substantive mimicking’ of its brand. Despite disputing the claims, the online dispensary has now announced that moving forward it will be rebranding to ‘Dispenseree’.

But while this might seem like a setback for the founder, who has described the situation as a ‘David vs Goliath’ contest, business still appears to be thriving. 

Why patients are turning to Dispenseroo 

In his latest interview, ‘S’ told The Independent that the service has generated half a million pounds in revenue since launching less than a year ago, thanks to its guerilla advertising campaigns

Despite having never sold drugs before, he says he created the service out of frustration with ‘archaic’ cannabis laws in the UK. He also revealed that many of its customers are buying cannabis products for medical reasons.

“There is a huge difference between hard drugs and weed,” he told the outlet.

“There is a lot of misinformation and negative images to those that are ill-informed. But many of our customers use cannabis for medical reasons and to treat complex illnesses like depression.”

Medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since 2018, with around 20,000 patients now thought to have a prescription for conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression and PTSD. 

However, with millions of patients still thought to be accessing cannabis illicitly, it is clear that more needs to be done to improve awareness and address the issues facing the legal cannabis sector.

The price is right?

In a ‘New Year’ update, the Dispenseroo website says the service has been ‘overwhelmed’ with orders and messages from individuals attempting to access support. So much so, that it will now be launching a new help centre and increasing stock quantities in the year ahead.

The website states: “…overwhelmed by the number of individuals needing a service like ours, we constantly needed more supply. 

“In 2023, we have taken measures to ensure that all products stocked meet our high standards; while increasing the number of products and quantity of stock. Through restructuring, we also aim to push our prices down to help those struggling in this cost-of-living crisis we find ourselves in today.”

Dispenseroo sells a range of products including flower, vape cartridges and edibles. After taking a closer look, lawyer and cannabis regulation expert, Robert Jappie, said price points were ‘not dissimilar’ to those on the UK medical cannabis market.

While vape cartridges could be considered expensive at £50 for a 0.5ml THC cartridge, one patient pointed out that after factoring in the cost of the device, plus repeat prescription costs and consultation fees, it was ‘considerably cheaper’ than the legal market. 

Mr Jappie believes prices to be higher than those on the street, and with no payment gateway due to its legal status, customers are forced to pay by bank transfer of Crypto currency.

“These are very risky payment methods for consumers as you have none of the protections in place when you buy with your credit card, but I suspect consumers will take this risk to reduce the issues associated with buying from ‘street dealers’,” Mr Jappie writes.

“Consumers will pay a premium for a less-hassle and less-risky way of purchasing cannabis. No one wants to be chasing a dealer around London… Given the price point of the products, it is quite possible this business is clearing half a million a week.”

New regulations could drive away business from the illicit market

However, there are concerns about patients accessing cannabis medicinally without clinical guidance or oversight. 

The co-chairs of the Cannabis Industry Council’s Prescription Cannabis Subcommittee, say the government could make regulatory changes which would improve legal access to cannabis medicines in the UK, protecting patients from harm and criminalisation.

Wider access would increase patient numbers and potentially drive down prices, which may encourage people away from the illicit market, they argue.

“This article provides further clarity that a growing number of people are utilising cannabis as a medicine,” co-chairs James Smith, Dr Sunil Arora and Kirsty Morrison, said in a statement to Cannabis Health.

“Cannabis-based medical products can provide immense benefit to patients experiencing a wide array of conditions, and studies have shown over 1.4 million people in the UK use cannabis medicinally.

“There are now a number of licensed clinics who will prescribe cannabis. Patients seeking cannabis as medication should consult a specialist doctor. The cost of legal prescriptions can be less expensive than the illicit market. Purchasing illegal and untested products from the illicit market is potentially hazardous and puts people at risk of criminalisation and fraud, as noted in the article [The Independent].”

One suggestion is allowing GPs to initiate prescriptions for medicinal cannabis. 

They added: “The government and UK health authorities have an opportunity to rip away business from the illicit market through responsible regulation. Simple changes could dramatically lower the cost of CBPMs and increase the ability to access doctors that are trained and willing to prescribe.

“Of urgent importance is allowing GPs to perform the initial prescription. This would benefit huge numbers of patients, including families who currently have no NHS funding support for their children’s life saving medicine.”

The economy is missing out on cannabis

Away from medical use, cannabis is thought to be the most commonly consumed drug in the UK, with around 7.6% of adults having used it in the last year, according to government data from 2022.

Commentators have previously said that the reported success of Dispenseroo highlights the ‘huge demand’ for cannabis in the UK and the potential benefits a legal market could have for the economy. The total spend on illicit cannabis is estimated to be around £2.6 billion every year.

Even ‘S’ says he wants to see a world where Dispensaroo would be a ‘fully legal, tax generating business’.

“All I am trying to show is that a platform can exist to sell weed in a clean and safe manner,” he told The Independent.

“If the archaic laws in the UK were reformed we would potentially be a fully legal, tax-generating business that could help repair economies like the one we live in.”

According to The Independent, the Metropolitan Police was unable to confirm whether officers are investigating Dispenseroo. Meanwhile, S says he is planning to take its advertising ‘to the next level’ in 2023.

But how long can he keep it up?

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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