It was just four years ago that the Medical Cannabis Club of Guelph was shuttered following a police raid that saw many of its staff arrested and its clientele forced to look elsewhere for their medication. Today though, for the opening of the new Guelph office of the MedCannAccess Solution Centres, the tone was quite different.
Several local politicians including Ward 3 Councillor Maggie Laidlaw, Ward 2 candidates James Gordon and Sian Matwey, Ward 6 candidate Keith Poore, and Guelph Member of Parliament Frank Valeriote, were all on hand to welcome the opening of this third MedCannAccess Centre in Ontario with open arms. The Centre's goal: to provide a one-stop shop for consultation, information and referral for patients seeking medicinal marijuana options to treat what ails them.
According to a press release, MedCannAccess "was established to provide access to the highest-quality of medical cannabis products developed through research and innovation, aiming to improve the quality of life for persons with a wide range of conditions including chronic disabilities and terminal illnesses." The new Guelph office in Suite #201 in the Old Quebec Street Mall is the third MedCannAccess office to open in the past couple of months following openings in Etobicoke and Hamilton.
"I think there's been a big change about the views of medical marijuana as compared to years past," said Rade Kovacevic, Vice-President of Business Development. "I think the new regulations have done a lot to de-stigmatize marijuana, as well as the number of patients in Canada who access this product now. When someone's mother is going through chemotherapy, and they find that medical marijuana allows her to continue her therapy, suddenly the light bulb goes on and they see the huge benefit that it brings and it makes them much more comfortable with it."
Comfort is a big goal with MedCannAccess, which aims to create a welcoming and open environment for both its clients and its neighbours."That's what we were hoping with this open house," Kovacevic said, "to allow the community and our social service partners to come through the office, meet our staff, meet our management team and really see what we do here so we can de-mystify and de-stigmatize our services."
Amongst the Centre's services are to meet with patients, go over documents and how to approach their physician to see if they're a fit for treatment. After a doctor's assessment, they come back to the centre and book a consultation, at which they'll register to join a licensed producer from whom they can get their supply. There isn't a single bud of marijuana at all on the MedCannAccess premises.
"Its not allowed under the [Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations]," Kovacevic explained. "That being said we currently refer patients to licensed producers who then distribute directly from their licensed production facility via bonded courier to the patient's home."
One thing the centre will provide is infomation on alternative ingestion methods. "The [Canadian Medical Association] recently came out with a policy against smoking any plant, including medical marijuana," Kovacevic said, pointing out the Volcano vaporizer which the centre has on display. "It's the equivalent of steaming vegetables. It allows you to avoid the cancer causing carcinogens of smoking, allows you to avoid the smell but still get the benefits of oral ingestion."
As the crowd at today's ribbon-cutting mingled, there was a lot of talk about politics, including Justin Trudeau's pledge to explore complete de-criminalization should he and his Liberals be elected to Federal office. For Kovacevic and the MedCannAccess staff, the politics are secondary to their main mission, helpiong people get the medicine they need.
"I would say for us its not political," he explained. "The Conservative government of Canada has put these regulations forward and been very supportive of them and trying to build an industry that's very research and innovation focused. Our company is very much focused on the medical solutions of marijuana, all of our centres are based in medical offices, so we've tried really hard to set a medical professional tone."
And that's why MedCannAccess has set up amongst the medical offices on the second floor of Old Quebec Street. "We don't want our patients, who have very serious illnesses, to be stigmatized by coming into a business that looks like the equivalent of a head shop," Kovacevic said. "We really want it to look medical and professional so that other people in the community understand that our clients, if they run into them, are honestly looking for a medical solution, with their physician's support, within a legal framework which the government of Canada's put forward."
Moving forward, Kovacevic said that MedCannAccess is currently in the final phase to become a licensed producers, which will give their clients the option of buying their medicine directly from the centre, or to buy it from another local producer. "We leave that as an option to our patients because we think that giving them a choice is the best choice," he said.