By Villeneuve, Melissa on July 8, 2017.
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A second medical cannabis clinic is set to open in Lethbridge this month. Natural Health Services will open its doors at Unit #110, 719 4th Ave S. on July 17. This follows 420 Clinic, which opened earlier this month at 330 7th St S.
Health Canada announced the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations last summer. This meant Canadians who are authorized by their health care practitioner could have access to cannabis for medical purposes.
The Calgary-based NHS is a patient-centric medical cannabis clinic with locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, and in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The demand for their services is growing, said Kait Shane, NHS’ Director of Community Outreach, which is why they’ve decided to expand to Lethbridge.
“There is a huge demand,” she said. “We’re the largest prescriber of medical marijuana in Canada as it stands… There’s been waiting lists at all of our clinics and we’ve capped out at all of our clinics at one point or another.”
The most recent Health Canada figures show that at the end of March 2017, almost 168,000 Canadians had signed up with the country’s 50 licensed cannabis producers. That’s almost 10 times as many registered clients recorded two years ago.
At NHS, their aim is to help patients navigate the waters when it comes to medical cannabis through on-site physicians and educators.
“It can be really difficult,” she said. “Some of these decisions are really hard given the bias around cannabis.”
Medical cannabis is used to treat a wide variety of ailments from seizures to migraines, insomnia to anxiety, and even to assist those with Alzheimer’s. It’s also been helpful in treating the side effects of chemotherapy such as wasting and nausea.
“(Clients) can feel comforted knowing that everything is Health Canada regulated, everything is completely legal and above board,” said Shane. “There are options where you don’t have any psychoactive impairment whatsoever through CBD, which is a great medicinal aspect of the plant.”
There are several ways to use medical cannabis. It can be used orally by ingesting an edible oil, or creating a product like a butter or coconut oil infused with cannabis.
The oils and fats can also be used to cook with to create many different foods. Vaporizing is also an option as some people find inhaling is more effective than processing through their liver.
Harm reduction is a major focus of the clinic, said Shane. Their entire model is based on “micro-dosing,” on having non-impairing cannabinoids like CBD within the medicine, and ingestion methods which are friendly to the body. And they provide follow up appointments with clients every three months, as mandated by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta standards.
“We are health supporting and we want to ensure we continue to be that way,” she said. “We don’t encourage people going out and smoking and getting high. We encourage they use it in a way that… minimum effective dose is what we look at.”
There is also an educational component with online classes, Q and As, and a weekly YouTube show called “The Cannabis Show.”
“We’re really able to up the ante now when it comes to educating the patient, because it’s so important that they feel comfortable and know what they’re doing because it’s a very bio-individual thing, and medical cannabis is,” said Shane.
Clients range in age from infants up to senior citizens. Doctor referrals are not mandatory, but are accepted. Potential clients can sign up for an appointment on the NHS website.
There is no charge to their patients for appointments or services, as it is covered through provincial health care.
In addition, product purchased through licensed distributors can be claimed as a medical expense on an income tax return, and many company health spending accounts also cover a portion of the cost.
The federal government has introduced legislation to make cannabis legal by July 2018. While NHS supports the legalization of cannabis, Shane said they have no intentions to switch to the recreational market.
“We support Canada’s aim in that because it’s going to alleviate a lot of the bias, hopefully, and answer a lot of questions around regulations that are still gray areas in terms of where and how much and how you can,” she said. “But we are strictly medicinal… There are a lot of people who want that doctor’s supervision, not to mention it’s probably going to open the floodgates once legalization happens because the stigma will be removed.”
Anyone interested in pre-booking an appointment can visit their website at http://www.naturalhealthservices.ca/lethbridge.
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