Pubdate: Wed, 17 Sep 2014
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Karena Walter
Page: A5


It looks like any other doctor's clinic on the inside. There's a 
blood pressure pump, stethoscopes and an exam table.

It's the vaporizer in the consultation room that gives it away.

Welcome to Niagara's first clinic that focuses solely on patients who 
might need medical marijuana.

Canadian Cannabis Clinics opened Tuesday at 80 King St. in St. 
Catharines, in the old Corbloc building downtown.

There's no marijuana on the premises and the office doesn't sell it.

Instead, a patient makes an appointment with the clinic's physician, 
who will assess the person to determine if he or she is eligible for 
a medical document, like a prescription. They can use that document 
to order medical marijuana from one of 13 licenced producers in Canada.

"The cost of medical marijuana is quite high, almost $7 a gram," said 
director Ronan Levy, explaining the clinic has zero patient fees, 
unlike others in the country.

"We wanted to remove barriers as much as possible for these 
patients." The average medical marijuana user receives one to three 
grams a day.

The clinic is the first of what's expected to be 10 rolled out across 
Canada in the next year from directors Levy of Hamilton and Joseph 
del Moral of Toronto.

The pair said they decided to start their venture in St. Catharines 
because unlike in Toronto, which has two similar clinics, the Niagara 
region had nothing of its kind.

The move is in response to federal regulations that came into effect 
April 1 requiring medical marijuana users to get their marijuana from 
an approved supplier with a doctor's prescription.

Before, users applied to a program through Health Canada.

The new rules make doctors the gatekeepers, but Levy said they don't 
all feel comfortable prescribing medical marijuana. That might be for 
moral reasons or, more likely, he said, because they are new to the 
treatment options and don't feel knowledgeable about it.

That's where the clinic comes in, offering its own physician who has 
no problem providing a medical document if a patient can benefit.

"Cannabis is just one of these products we've shunted into a 
forbidden product that we know people for a thousand years have been 
using as a medicine," said Dr. Barry Waisglass, the clinic's 
physician. "We've made it a forbidden fruit."

Waisglass, a family doctor for decades who spent two years at the 
Niagara Falls Community Health Centre, said working at the clinic is 
an opportunity for him to get cannabis medicine into the hands of 
those who might fi nd it helpful in reducing suffering.

Patients who might benefit, according to a clinic referral form, 
include those with acute pain, migraines, cancer pain, epilepsy, 
glaucoma or Alzheimer's disease, among others.

Waisglass said he's had mixed reaction from his colleagues, some of 
whom think there isn't enough data to prescribe marijuana while 
others think it's effective in relieving pain.

Waisglass said he'll be rooting out abusers of recreational cannabis.

"My job is clear," he said. "I'm going to vet people who are 
inquiring about using medical marijuana who have chronic health problems."

The clinic has partnered with CanvasRX, a medial marijuana resources 
and counselling service, to offer patients advice and expertise on site.

It's in the CanvasRX room that the vaporizer sits, so a counsellor 
can teach a patient who receives a medical document how to actually 
use the drug.

Health Canada recommends it be vaporized, rather than smoked, to 
inhale active ingredients while avoiding byproducts from burning.

Del Moral said they booked four patients for opening day, but are 
fully booked Wednesday and Thursday. They aren't sure how many 
Niagara patients there will be but will add another doctor if demand 
requires it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom