Image of medical marijuana in a stash jar.
 
London doctors considering medical marijuana prescriptions will have a new resource to refer their patients to this summer.
~
Canadian Cannabis Clinics, a Toronto-based health centre focusing on conditions that can be treated with the drug, is opening a location on Wharncliffe Rd. June 1.
 
Ronan Levy, Canadian Cannabis Clinics’ director and general counsel, explained that the roughly eight-month old operation has been focusing expansion in densely populated areas of Ontario and that the organization feels London is currently under serviced by the county’s emergent medical marijuana industry.
 
“We look for markets that have at least 300,000 people because it is a specialized clinic and it’s a very narrow niche,” he said. “Based on our research we found that there was a need in London because there are very few doctors who will entertain prescribing. With a large population base and a mature population base, it just made sense to move into the London area.”
 
Londoners interested in exploring a medical marijuana prescription currently have an advocate in Dr. Michael Hart, who has been outspoken about his belief in the drug’s medicinal properties. A second clinic run by Dr. John Craven called Options Health Care opened in May last year but was shuttered without much explanation in less than a month.
 
Canadian Cannabis Clinics takes a slightly different approach, Levy said, by encouraging physicians uncomfortable with prescribing marijuana to refer patients to them. Consultations at Canadian Cannabis Clinics are covered by OHIP.
 
“It’s not a hard rule, but we generally prefer that the patient comes with a referral,” Levy said. “We’re quite diligent in screening patients to make sure that the patients we’re seeing are genuinely sick.
 
“They have to provide us with proof of diagnosis as well as a their history of treatments before we’ll even see them to make sure we’re seeing the right patients likely to be candidates for medical cannabis. That’s simply because we don’t want to waste people’s time seeing a doctor if they’re not likely to get a prescription and we don’t want to waste our doctor’s time.”
 
It’s also a way to dissuade recreational users from seeking medical cannabis, Levy said, adding that Canadian Cannabis Clinics doesn’t physically handle marijuana. Instead, when the clinic provides a prescription, they guide clients through registering with one of the country’s newly licensed producers in a process that has been recently established by the federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.
 
Guidelines are available on the Health Canada website.
 
Canadian Cannabis Clinics also staff “cannabis counsellors” who can provide more information about the drug to patients, including consumption techniques (the clinic recommends vaporizing, Levy said) and strain selection.
 
Canadian Cannabis Clinics, which also includes a research arm utilizing the growing amount of data the organization is drawing from patients, was founded in St. Catharine’s.
 
“The impetus for the opening of the clinics was really from hearing from a lot of general practitioners last year who said, ‘I have all these patients asking about medical cannabis but I don’t know enough about it,’” Levy said. “There’s still a lot of apprehension, to be quite honest.”
 
But medical marijuana has proven effective at treating certain conditions.
 
“We really want to emphasize this is medicine and it’s a good medical option in certain circumstances and there should be no negative associations with using cannabis as opposed to Advil or Tylenol or any other medications that are out there,” Levy said.
 
Chronic pain is the most common problem Canadian Cannabis Clinics patients suffer from, Levy said, estimating the frequency at around 60 per cent. But depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy are a few others. He added that anyone who has used conventional treatments for chronic conditions unsuccessfully could be a good candidate for medical marijuana.
 
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