An eastern Canadian chain of medical marijuana clinics plans to tap into a growing Alberta market later this month by opening its first Edmonton location.

Dr. Danial Schecter, who started Toronto’s Cannabinoid Medical Clinic in 2014 and now has five similar facilities, says doctors in the new office will offer examinations, evaluations, cannabis prescriptions and product advice.

Patients must be referred by their doctors, who might not feel they have enough expertise to handle this area themselves, Schecter said.

“People coming to them with chronic conditions, they realize despite giving them five medications, 10 medications … they’re still suffering,” he said.

“They think, ‘Maybe cannabis and medications based on cannabis would help my patients.’”

The office in the Hys Centre on 101 Street will be run by one doctor two or three days a week when it opens in mid-April.

Schecter, who was in Alberta a couple of weeks ago giving doctors educational seminars, expects demand and staffing will soon increase.

“The reception I had was phenomenal. We have already received a number of consultation requests from local physicians in Edmonton. I’m here because it seemed underserviced and with many people who might benefit from it.”

Doctors at the clinic, likely family physicians, will receive two days of training, along with written material and followup.

The office won’t provide cannabis, but medical services are covered by the provincial government, Schecter said.

This isn’t the city’s only medical marijuana facility.

Natural Health Services, which runs a clinic in Calgary, apparently has an Edmonton site as well, although it isn’t mentioned on its website and a staff member wouldn’t say when it opened or where it’s located.

Under federal rules, patients with prescriptions — formally called medical documents — must have orders shipped to them by a licensed producer.

Health Canada’s website states marijuana isn’t an approved drug or medicine in Canada and hasn’t gone through the necessary scientific trials for effectiveness or safety.

However, courts have ruled people with a doctor’s authorization must be given reasonable access to legal marijuana sources.

Patients generally inhale the dried pot with a vaporizer so they don’t have to smoke.

“Most people who use marijuana for medical purposes actually need less than they need for recreational purposes,” Schecter said.

“You get a pain-relieving effect and an anxiety-relieving effect quicker than you would get stoned.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta isn’t concerned about cannabis clinics as long as doctors follow the standard of practice, a spokesperson said.

This includes keeping proper documentation, registering with the college as an authorizer of marijuana, checking whether conventional therapies are effective and assessing the patient’s addiction risk.

There are 232 Alberta doctors registered to authorize marijuana. They’ve treated 4,171 patients, according to college figures.

Schecter said his clinics now break even financially. He hopes to make money using the knowledge they’ve developed to do clinical trials for producers.

About two-thirds of the more than 5,000 patients referred to his facilities since 2014 suffer from pain and related problems such as insomnia, poor appetite and depression.

Gastrointestinal ailments, cancer symptoms and such neurological conditions as Parkinson’s disease are also common reasons for taking medical marijuana, he said.

The typical patient uses 15 to 30 grams a month — the rough equivalent of seven to 30 joints — worth $5 to $12 a gram.

While the cost of some cannabis-based medicine is paid by health plans, they generally don’t cover medical pot itself.

There’s an upside to keeping it legal, Schecter said. “The benefit of getting cannabis from medical supervision is even if it’s not covered (by a plan), if you get it from a licensed producer with a prescription, it’s tax deductible.”

 Medical marijuana

Cannabinoid Medical Clinics are located in Toronto, Ottawa, Barrie, Ont., Halifax and St. John’s, Newf.

Canada has 30 licensed medical marijuana producers, including one in Alberta, Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc., which runs a plant 75 kilometres northwest of Calgary. Women Grow, a North American organization for female entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, expects at least 50 people to attend the May 5 launch of its Edmonton chapter.

Source – http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/edmonton-to-get-its-first-medical-marijuana-clinic