420 Clinic to assist patients through federal regulations
Nestled in the heart of Calgary's Inglewood, a new medical clinic will open its doors in April to serve as a one-stop shop for medical marijuana — the first of its kind in Calgary.
Although there will be no marijuana on site, the 420 Clinic will assist patients in navigating federal rules around accessing medical marijuana.
"Patients will come in with or without a document and we can help them through the process," the 420 Clinic's director of operations, Jeff Mooij, said.
Mooij has had to overcome many obstacles in order to get his clinic set up, as many groups in Calgary have raised their concerns regarding the use of marijuana for any reason, including "medicinal use."
"I'm not trying to hide what we are," Mooij said, "we are a medical marijuana clinic. We're not being sneaky. This is what we are, this is legal and we are here to help people."
Under Health Canada's Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), patients must visit a healthcare practitioner in order to obtain a medical document or prescription before they can register with a licensed producer where they will place an order. Once the prescription is filled, the order will be sent to the patient's home through Canada Post.
Matt McDonald, 31, has a prescription for medical marijuana to treat his anxiety, insomnia and chronic back pain. His family doctor of four years suggested he try marijuana after the legislation changed in 2014.
"In the beginning when I was trying to find a strain that would be good for me I was finding ones that were making me more anxious," McDonald said, "which is not good for me at all."
The 420 Clinic will assist patients in obtaining this document and ensure that patients, like McDonald, are being treated with the correct strain and dosage of marijuana for each ailment.
McDonald, who discovered that marijuana was relieving his symptoms through non-medical use, said, "In self-exploration, every supplier will have something different, then it will change and you have to go from supplier to supplier, so you never know what you're getting."
But with the new legislation in place, "there are licensed producers of marijuana, which is great because you're getting quality, lab-tested, consistent great product all the time," Mooij said.
The 420 Clinic is hoping to have its grand opening on April 20, or what is better known as "420" throughout the marijuana subculture. On 420, smokers unite to celebrate all facets of marijuana culture. Many protests and rallies around the legalization and freedom to smoke are also held in cities across the globe.
The clinic's customer care manager, Kalissa Bellefeuille, said this operation is something that she really believes in and she's excited to start helping people.
"It's exciting when you're working with patients and listening to their stories and they know that [marijuana] is working because they are already using," Bellefeuille said, "so it's exciting that we can help them do it legally so that they don't have to feel like criminals — because they're not."
"We are a medical marijuana clinic. We're not being sneaky. This is what we are, this is legal and we are here to help people."
-Jeff Mooij, director of operations with the 420 ClinicAlready, before the construction is even complete, the 420 Clinic has a growing list of patients. They are already speaking with around 100 patients who are interested in utilizing their services.
"We get a lot of MS patients and cancer patients," Mooij said, "a lot more than we were anticipating." He said that it can be tough at times to hear their stories and see how much pain they are in, but he said, "this stuff will really help them."
Amy, a 24-year-old cancer patient whose name has been changed to remain anonymous said she has been self-medicating with marijuana without a prescription for two years now to manage her pain and anxiety. After her discharge in September 2014, doctors found new tumours in her breasts in November.
"Pain is easily dealt with now," she said, "combining marijuana with meditation and yoga has done more for my anxiety than the antidepressants and counseling did for over a decade."
She spoke with every doctor that she has seen throughout her treatments and after being rejected by all of them she said her faith in doctors is "dwindling."
"There will always be those who cannot see it as a real medication," she said, "the concern for children and youth accessing [medical marijuana] will be huge. I feel it's the same as an unlocked liquor cabinet, just be responsible and keep your medications away from kids — what everyone should be doing anyways."
Mooij said many doctors have their backs up against a wall when it comes to prescribing medical marijuana due to a lack of information and uncertainty in the legal processes with federal regulations.
Not only will the 420 Clinic be offering patients, like McDonald and Amy, the information they need to access medical marijuana, they will also have doctors on-site, offer massage therapy, host educational programs in their multimedia room, and sell hemp products such as lotions and clothing. Mooij and Bellefeuille are also hoping a naturopath – a person who integrates standard medical diagnostics with natural therapies – will join their team to complete their holistic alternative health approach.
- By CAITLIN CLOW