A British Columbia-based company is planning to open a medical marijuana clinic in Nova Scotia in March, CBC News has learned.
The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre of Vancouver is already advertising in Halifax, offering to arrange Health Canada authorizations for medical marijuana via an exam conducted on Skype.
Terry Roycroft, the president of the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre, said for a fee, his clinic helps with the paperwork required to obtain the drug. Right now, out-of-province patients are required to provide medical records proving a need.
For $400, a doctor based in British Columbia or Ontario will carry out a 30 to 40-minute exam via Skype prior to signing the Health Canada form.
"This is not just a typical doctor's appointment where you would come in for cold and be there for five minutes. It's very extensive because of the new uses of it and because these are new patients that he has not seen before," said Roycroft.
"He makes sure that he has the appropriate information before he signs off and makes recommendations."
The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre has been running an advertisement soliciting its Skype consultations in The Coast, a free weekly newspaper in Halifax.
"It has been quite robust, our response. We will be very quickly looking for another physician in Nova Scotia that we can start referring people directly to," said Roycroft.
Clinics to move east
The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre's offer to provide out-of-province medical advice is news to Nova Scotia's medical establishment.
"My belief is that medical services delivered in Nova Scotia should be delivered in Nova Scotia," said Dr. Gus Grant, the registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.
But it's not clear what — if anything — the college can do about it.
"It raises a bigger question as to what medical services can be delivered by way of telemedicine, if you will, into Nova Scotia and what the standards are for medicine delivery in that fashion," said Grant.
The debate over the rigour of a Skype exam may soon be moot. Roycroft is planning to bring his clinics east, opening a clinic in Toronto in February and one in Nova Scotia in March.
While advertising for the Skype consultations may be novel, one chronic pain advocate in Nova Scotia said he's not surprised.
"There's another business out there trying to make some money off of the medical cannabis or medical marijuana that's being prescribed," Terry Bremner told CBC News.
'This is a legal right for patients'
Bremner said the demand for Health Canada approvals is not being met.
"That's a path that a lot of individuals will take because doctors are not comfortable in prescribing this," he said.
Doctors Nova Scotia — the professional association representing physicians — is not convinced medical marijuana is effective. It issued this position last year: "Doctors Nova Scotia is concerned about the lack of evidence demonstrating the efficacy, appropriate mode of delivery, dosage, or long-term health effects of medical marijuana."
The decision to sanction the use of medical marijuana is left to the discretion of individual doctors.
"The bottom line is, this is a legal right for patients to have," said Roycroft.
"Physicians are the gatekeepers to be able to facilitate that. It's up to the individual doctor whether or not he wants to support a patient."