Pubdate: Fri, 02 Sep 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Page: A3
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Dale Carruthers


Warning That Patients May Lose Prescriptions Called 'Bullying' By 
Tasty Budds' Operator

Medical marijuana users who buy their pot from illegal dispensaries 
risk not having their prescriptions renewed.

That's the warning doctors at a London clinic specializing in 
prescribing pot are giving their patients, said Ronan Levy, director 
of Canadian Cannabis Clinics. But the operator of London's newest 
dispensary - engaged in a showdown with police that illustrates 
confusion over Canada's pot laws - calls the warning "bullying." 
Setting up shop in London more than a year ago, doctors at Canadian 
Cannabis Clinics assess patients and write prescriptions for medical 
marijuana. Though a referral from a family doctor is preferred, it's 
not required at the clinic. "Absolutely we do not recommend that 
patients purchase through dispensaries," Levy said from Vancouver.

The proliferation of dispensaries across Canada - there's an 
estimated 350 - is causing confusion among patients on the legal 
status of the businesses, Levy said. Under federal law, authorized 
patients can only buy marijuana for medicinal use from a few dozen 
government-approved commercial producers.

"If a patient goes to a dispensary and purchases from there, as 
opposed to one of Health Canada's licensed producers, they won't 
continue to provide a prescription to those patients," Levy said of 
his doctors. Hundreds of London's authorized medical marijuana users 
are flocking to its three dispensaries. At Tasty Budd's, regional 
manager Jordan Johnson said requiring patients to order marijuana by 
mail from government-approved producers is unconstitutional because 
it denies users fair and easy access to their medicine. Some 
medicinal users don't have credit cards or can't afford a money 
order, as required by commercial producers, said Johnson, adding 
shipping also takes time and raises privacy concerns.

"It's bullying," he said of the vow not to renew prescriptions of 
dispensary-using patients. Visiting dispensaries or so-called 
compassion clubs lets patients see the product they're buying, avoid 
minimum purchase requirements and speak with clerks, most of whom are 
medicinal users, Johnson said.

But Levy said buying from dispensaries risks patients' health. "All 
the cannabis they get is untested," he said, explaining its potency 
isn't known and the weed could be contaminated with mould or 
bacteria. Dispensaries say they get their marijuana from growers 
approved by the government to produce pot for themselves and other 
users. Conceding some people may "fall through the cracks," Levy said 
using dispensaries is better than buying off the street.

There are 18 Canadian Cannabis Clinics locations in Canada, including 
one at 279 Wharncliffe Rd. N. Opening in June 2015, the London site 
has seen 1,600 patients and received referrals from more than 350 
local doctors, making it the firm's busiest clinic, Levy said. "The 
need for our clinic(s) exists because the vast majority of doctors . 
. . are not comfortable prescribing medical cannabis," Levy said.

Critics blame the rise of dispensaries on foot-dragging by the 
Liberal government on its promise to legalize marijuana next spring. 
Until then, cities have been left to police the dispensaries without 
guidance from the federal government.

London police raided Tasty Budd's last month, seizing its inventory 
and charging its owner and an employee with drug trafficking. The 
shop reopened a week later, rebranding itself as a members-only compassion club.
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