It’s not a dispensary, but it’s in the neighbourhood — a new St. John’s medical marijuana clinic will soon be helping patients with the often-tangly medical and legal matters surrounding cannabis-based treatments. 

Cannabinoid Medical Clinic will be opening officially on February 29th and kicking it off with a medical education session with healthcare practitioners in St. John’s.

“We’re out to decrease stigma and increase awareness,” says Dr. Danial Schecter, Executive Director and co-founder of Cannabinoid Medical Clinic, as well as a practicing family physician. “Some physicians are simply not comfortable with cannabinoid therapy.”

Since opening their first clinic in Toronto in 2014, Dr. Schecter and his colleagues have worked with Canadian physicians, as many are uncertain how to talk with their patients about marijuana, including the legal implications, and the process of obtaining it. “It’s one of the occasions where the patient may be more knowledgeable on a topic than the physician.”

As a referral-only clinic, the clinic only accepts patients who have been referred by a physician or medical specialist. From there, the clinic assesses whether a patient can be helped with cannabis-based medications or medical marijuana.

“We talk to people who are just at the end of their rope,” says Schecter. “They’ve seen a few different specialists, they’re experiencing chronic conditions, and they’re looking for other options.”

After the referral process, if a patient qualifies for medical marijuana, the clinic’s physician will provide a prescription, which can be sent to any Licensed Producer (LP) approved by Health Canada, who will then send the prescribed medication by mail or courier, which is still the only legal way to obtain medical marijuana.

Along with medical marijuana, CMClinic can also prescribe cannabinoids, a prescription which can be filled at your local pharmacy. Prescriptive cannabinoids are synthetic and mimic the action of THC, and have different applications than the herbal variety.

Schecter says that there are many benefits of moving to legitimate pot sources, aside from the obvious (legal) ones, and the fact that many patients find the arrangement more affordable. It’s also a tax write-off, as it’s a medical expense.

“Also, on the street, you may find a strain that’s particularly effective for you one week, but then next week, what you get may be the same, or maybe it’s different and you could experience negative effects… [Licensed Producers] grow it standardized… the medical ingredients are right there on the package.”

As they prepare for their kick-off, Schecter is hoping that the community supports their move to St. John’s. “It’s important for us to have community buy-in. We don’t work in isolation. We want to work with physicians as well as patients. If you’re working in a silo, patients receive no benefit.”

The clinic’s lead physician for the area will be Dr. Leonard Phair, who specializes in internal medicine. CMClinic plans to announce their St. John’s location in February.