Pubdate: Wed, 17 Sep 2014
Source: Standard, The (St. Catharines, CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 St. Catharines Standard
Author: Karena Walter
Page: A1


Niagara's first medical marijuana clinic opens in St. Catharines

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

Welcome to Niagara's first clinic that focuses solely on patients who
may 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

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

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
on 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 may 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, providing 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 find it helpful to reducing suffering.

Patients who may benefit, according to a clinic referral form, include
those with acute pain, migraines, cancer pain, epilepsy, glaucoma and
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 relieves the suffering of patients.

Waisglass said he'll be rooting out abusers of recreational

"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 counseling service, to offer patients advice and expertise on site.

It's in the Canvas RX 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

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
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