The process of legalizing pot for recreational use isn’t expected to start until next year, but medical marijuana is already a hit in Calgary.

A local clinic that works exclusively in cannabis has about 5,500 patients.

“I do this because I believe that cannabis is a safer alternative to many of the medications that I have prescribed over the course of my career,” said Dr. Stephanie Mason, the medical doctor at Natural Health Services.

Mason, a psychiatrist with 30 years of experience, made the full-time switch to the world of medical marijuana last fall.

Who are the patients?

Mason says there are two groups of patients.

“There are people that are using cannabis to reduce stress and anxiety and to improve sleep,” she said.

“And we do a lot of work with cancer patients who are having chemotherapy. We are doing a lot of work with palliative cancer patients. We’re doing a lot of work with epilepsy. We’re doing a lot of work with migraines and MS and chronic pain.”

How does it work?

An interested patient makes an appointment to see Mason, who says she’s not in the business of turning people away.

“Very rarely,” she said.

“Because of the risk right now with cannabis on the street. I’ve seen some very, very scary situations where people have bought what they thought was normal weed and had physical and psychiatric symptoms that were totally inconsistent with marijuana.”

Once a patient gets a prescription, they go downstairs to what’s called the drug store. That’s where they get to pick the pot that works best for them.

“When you come into the education centre, the drug store, we walk you through the process,” said Steve Fader, one of the owners.

Steve Fader

Co-owner Steve Fader says eventually they hope to be able to have the product on site, but current legislation prevents that. (CBC)

“We let you know what to expect, we also let the patient know that they’ve got the opportunity to register with any of the 31 licensed producers that Health Canada has registered right now.”

The patient picks their strain, places an order, and the pot is delivered to their home. Because of existing laws, there’s no marijuana on site.

That could change if marijuana is legalized in Canada.

“It’s legislative changes that we don’t have any control over,” Fader said.

“Ideally we’d like to be able to supply our patients with the product right here inside the drug store, but as of right now that’s currently not the case.


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