A new “patient support centre” for people trying to get prescriptions for medical marijuana is opening in Hamilton next week.
The new service is hosted by MedCannAccess – a recently formed company that just opened its first support centre in Etobicoke. Spokesperson Rade Kovacevic says the free service is available so people can ask questions about new marijuana regulations, get help navigating the application process and, once they have a prescription, connect them with a licensed dealer. Which they are applying to become under the new pot legislation.
“Though the new regulations are improved, they lack aspects of patient support that we think are important,” Kovacevic said. “If you’re suffering from terminal cancer, the last thing you want to deal with is four more pages of paperwork.”
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But the company isn’t looking just to make things easier for consumers – it also wants to lessen the load on Ontario’s doctors, he said. Physicians in Ontario are already extremely busy, Kovacevic says, and in many cases don’t have the time to properly explain the medical marijuana process. “We’re able to offload that work from physicians,” he said.
How medical marijuana is distributed in still in flux in Canada. Last June, the federal government introduced new regulations to replace the old Marijuana Medical Access Program, which had been around since 2001.
New laws cause confusion
Under new Marijuana for Medical Purposes regulations, people can no longer be licensed growers on their own. Instead, they have to go to licensed commercial producers.
But just before the April 1 deadline when the new regulations were to take effect, a Federal Court issued an injunction against the government's plan. In May, more than 200 people flooded federal courts with lawsuits demanding the right to possess and grow their own pot for medical purposes.
A judge has put most of the cases on hold until a decision next year in a case examining Ottawa's recent changes to production.
It’s a complicated situation that Kovacevic knows well – as he and the rest of his partners in MedCannAccess used to be medical marijuana growers and distributed under licenses from the old system. But under the new system, he and his two partners (who have almost three decades of cumulative experience between them) had to become an incorporated entity.
'We don't want to make them wait'
The group is now “in the later stages” of applying to be a licensed producer under the new regulations, Kovacevic says. While they can’t yet distribute, MedCannAccess is building a network of prospective patients throughout southern Ontario that could register with them to purchase medical marijuana, if Health Canada approves the company. There’s no cost for any customers or taxpayers for using the support centre, he says.
“We think it can help people, we don’t want to make them wait,” Kovacevic said. “And just because we work with people here doesn’t mean they have to register with us in the end.”
MedCannAccess has already generated interest from big business. Ontario mining company Buccaneer Gold Corp. issued a “binding letter of intent,” with eyes to buy the company – something Kovacevic says is a kind of “reverse takeover” done in an attempt to get onto the Toronto Stock Exchange faster.
“It’s a quicker way to get stock listed,” he said.
MedCannAccess’s new support centre is opening in Hamilton on August 22 at 100 James St. S. A third office is planned for Guelph in September. “Then we’re looking at opening other centres across the province and then across the country.”