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Demand for Canada medical marijuana growing

medical marijuana growing
Note: Ronan Levy, director of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, said the company plans to open a clinic in Sudbury. An exact site for the clinic remains to be confirmed, but it will likely be downtown and operating this month. The Sudbury clinic will be 13th one in Ontario for the company, which is the country’s largest operator of clinics specializing in medical cannabis.

While the concentration of medicinal marijuana dispensaries is mainly in downtown Toronto, access to the drug isn’t just exclusively for those living in the 416 area code.

Canadian Cannabis Clinics has sparked up 11 locations throughout the GTA — including one recently in Mississauga — and southern Ontario since September 2014.

The clinics hook up people who suffer from legitimate ailments with prescriptions for medicinal pot. Patients rely on licensed growers — approved by Health Canada — for their weed.

Ronan Levy, director and general consul for the clinics, speaks about how the business is expanding to the ‘burbs.

Q. How did the idea of these clinics come about?

“Almost all the doctors we spoke to told us they had patients who wanted medical cannabis but those particular doctors were not going to prescribe medical cannabis because they weren’t comfortable about it, didn’t know enough about it, believe in it — whatever the case may be. But they were happy to refer patients to doctors that were comfortable with this. After hearing that enough times, we thought, ‘what about trying to make a medical clinic for this particular niche and help doctors who have these patients they can’t help and patients who can’t get help from their own doctors.’ ”

Q. You opened your first location in St. Catharines. Why is there a need for your clinics in places other than downtown Toronto?

“It’s known that wherever you go in Canada, either people are self-medicating or they’re finding challenges with the available options to them. When you start to get into the suburbs, you have less density of doctors, you generally have attitudes and mindsets that tend to be more socially conservative than in major urban centres, so doctors are probably more hesitant (to prescribe) than in Toronto. No, it’s not surprising there’s a strong demand in suburban communities, because you have demand that’s not being fulfilled. That’s why clinics like us open in these areas.”

Q. What are common misconceptions about your clinics?

“We are not a dispensary, there’s no cannabis onsite, you can’t leave our clinics with cannabis. The second thing is a lot of people expect there to be fees, whether it’s an education or monitoring fee. There are no fees associated with anything, except a $60 cancellation fee (for no-shows). It’s covered by OHIP. The only cost they incur is the fee for the cannabis, which they pay to the licensed producer.”

Q. How do you make sure patients go to a licensed producer instead of illegal dispensaries?

“We try to make it as easy as possible for patients to work with one of the licensed producers. In addition to providing education, what the counsellors will also do is … the paperwork that needs to be done can be done on-site and quickly. We send it off on the patient’s behalf. All patients sign a ‘treatment agreement,’ similar to what you see in methadone practice, to make sure patients are actually adhering to what they’re being prescribed. They will only get their cannabis from a licensed producer … you know the quality that comes with that.”

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