Article by Solomon Israel, CBC News
Across Canada, specialty medical clinics are making money within the government’s legal medical marijuana regime by acting as middlemen between doctors, patients and licensed marijuana producers.
The clinics are in the business of taking referrals from doctors and arranging consultations with physicians who assess potential patients and write prescriptions for those who qualify. Clinic staff then educate those patients on how to use medical marijuana, and register them with the licensed medical marijuana producers who will ultimately provide the patients with legal cannabis by mail.
Some of the clinics also receive money from those licensed producers, raising questions about medical ethics and transparency.
The clinics are needed to bridge the gap between patients who could benefit from medical marijuana and doctors who are hesitant to prescribe it, according to patient advocate Jonathan Zaid, executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.
“Each clinic operates a bit differently, but a well-operated medical cannabis clinic plays an important role for patient access, especially considering many physicians still feel uncomfortable authorizing medical cannabis,” he said.
How one clinic business works
Canadian Cannabis Clinics has 17 locations in Ontario and two in Alberta. It opened its first clinic in St. Catharines, Ont., in 2014.
“The response was overwhelming, because there was a very strong pent-up demand both from patients as well as from local physicians who had patients who wanted medical cannabis but were unable to assist them,” said Ronan Levy, the company’s chief corporate officer and general counsel.