A medical marijuana clinic is planning to open up shop in downtown Sudbury — and advocates and users of the drug hope it will help to end the stigma associated with pot.
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Ronan Levy is a director of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, the operation currently negotiating a lease in downtown Sudbury.
He said the clinic won't grow or sell marijuana directly, and people must have a doctor's referral to be considered for a pot prescription to buy their own from a licensed provider.
Rather, he said medical staff at the clinic will be on-site to test people for suitability and offer guidance.
"The perception that many people may have around a cannabis clinic is probably not well suited to what we actually do," he said.
'It's not a place where you're going to go score your pot.' - Jamy Mckenzie
"If you stick your head in and see our clinic in operation, it looks like any other doctor's office. It just happens that we're specialized in a particular niche."
Jamy Mckenzie of Sudbury uses medical marijuana every day.
He said it alleviates the pain that comes from muscle spasms and cystic fibrosis.
"It helps me breathe. It helps me eat," he said.
Mckenzie said he wants others to benefit from the medical effects of cannabis — but said it's hard to get a prescription from doctors.
Mckenzie said he had to get his in Toronto.
"The prohibitionist view in Sudbury has to stop. We have to accept it as — for one — a medicine, and quite frankly, soon legal, recreational usage that's coming."
'Genuinely sick people'
Levy says he hopes to help quash some of the stigma around medicinal marijuana when he opens up shop downtown.
"If you ever stop by any of our clinics, you'll see that the people sitting in there are genuinely sick people who are in need of good medical care."
He argues that clinics like his only exist at the moment because physicians are still grappling with their role in the burgeoning medical marijuana field.
"The rest of the medical community, by and large, hasn't developed a comfort with prescribing medical cannabis. Generally, it's a lack of understanding. A lack of education when it comes to this."
Far from seeing the presence of Levy's clinic as a drug free-for-all in Sudbury, Mckenzie said the clinic is, in his eyes, about legitimate health care.
"It's not a place where you're going to go score your pot, this is going to be a place where people get the help and the right info so they can access this medicine properly and use it properly."