Agoracom Blog

Toronto opens first referral-only medical marijuana clinic

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 11:26 AM on Monday, July 21st, 2014


TORONTO – Inside a brand-new medical clinic near the intersection of Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave., a patient walks up to the counter following his appointment.

An employee stands with him, offering advice on the man’s new medication.

“Be sure to grind it well before putting consuming it,” the staffer says. “You want it fluffy like dryer lint. Fluffy is your friend when it comes to vaporizers.”

The patient thanks him for the advice and heads out the door.

It’s a normal exchange at the Cannabinoid Medical Clinic — CMClinic for short — Toronto’s first referral-only medical marijuana clinic.

It was a busy first week for executive director Dr. Danial Schecter and his staff after officially opening the clinic’s doors on July 14 and seeing dozens of the approximately 700 patients on the wait list. Talk of additional clinics in Canada is already taking place, Schecter says.

The clinic opened in the wake of new federal regulations regarding medical marijuana use. The rules, which came into effect on April 1, require that patients procure their stash from an approved supplier with a doctor’s prescription.

Schecter, who learned of marijuana’s medical effects while studying at the University of Montreal, set up the Toronto clinic after successfully using the plant to treat several patients at his former practice near Georgian Bay.

“I had a patient who suffered from anxiety so badly that he literally flapped when he walked into my office,” recalled Schecter, adding that the man self-medicated with alcohol and was afraid to consume marijuana for fear of returning to prison. “I saw his treatment as a success, and when the new regulations were announced, it was an opportunity to help many more people.”

Despite criticism from some doctors and health organizations about the lack of evidence for marijuana’s medical benefits, Schecter said he hopes to change that perception by contributing to the emerging field through his work at the clinic. He explained that in his experience, family doctors fall into three categories:

The 10% who are firmly opposed to the medical use of weed, another 10% who are open to the concept but cautious, and the 80% who are willing to prescribe it as a last resort for patients who have tried everything else.

“This is something that’s talked about for maybe five or 10 minutes in medical school,” Schecter mused. “The research done here will allow us to make a solid contribution to a novel field of medicine. I’m trying to educate the skeptical physicians and help that 80% (willing to prescribe marijuana).”

While other marijuana clinics have recently sprung up in Toronto, Schecter is quick to point out that CMClinic is referral-only and is covered through OHIP, similar to other medical specialists that a patient may be referred to by their family doctor.

Clinic spokesman Bridget Best said the facility operates more as a referral and educational centre for doctors and patients who may need assistance in learning about the various forms that cannabis can take as well as the myriad consumption methods.

Schecter said that as opposed to the typical recreational user who may consume mass quantities of weed due to tolerance of the drug, his patients often manage their pain by using less than a gram per day.

While patients are free to consume marijuana in whichever way they choose, the clinic sells vaporizers (which create marijuana vapour instead of smoke) as opposed to typical head shop fare like glass pipes and bongs.

No marijuana is stored on site, Best said.

Pursuing a medication more often associated with recreational and illicit consumption is often a last resort for most of the clinic’s patients — many of whom hail from various points across the GTA and southern Ontario, while others still have inquired from as far away as Germany and Panama.

Schecter, who said that he tries to avoid prescribing pot to anyone under 25 due to the inconclusive effects of the drug on the growing brain, deals predominantly with patients in “chronic pain,” ranging from those suffering with the lingering effects of accidents and chemotherapy to those requiring palliative care.

Travelling to the clinic from Bowmanville, patient Bob Landry recalled the 2011 traffic accident that left him with lingering pain and headaches. While Landry said that he has successfully used marijuana to treat his condition after traditional prescription drugs proved either ineffective or unthinkable, he sought out the clinic to help with proper dosages.

“I tried normal painkillers first, then my doctor offered me Oxycontin — I refused,” Landry said, explaining that his cousin had died from the controversial drug. “I believe this is the solution. I prefer to acquire it legally and, this way, I know what I’m getting.

“I hope to one day return to my normal activities.”


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