A new medical marijuana clinic has opened its doors in Windsor, though it will not be providing its patients with any cannabis itself.
On Monday morning, the Windsor office of the Canadian Cannabis Clinics opened on Turner Road, near Windsor Regional Hospital.
The clinic specializes in determining if a patient is suitable to take medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001, but in 2014, the process changed on how to obtain it. Prior to 2014, patients needed a licence from Health Canada, but they now just need a prescription from a doctor.
Ronan Levy, the general counsel and one of the directors of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, claims most doctors aren't comfortable in writing prescriptions for medical marijuana and don't know a lot about it. That's why his clinic is needed, he said.
Levy says the clinic's staff meets with local doctors to explain what they do, and assure them medical marijuana and the clinic is all medically sound. That's why his clinics ask for referrals from general practitioners.
"Cannabis should not be used as your first option," Levy told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning.
At the moment, Levy hasn't recruited local doctors to work at the clinic. For now, doctors from elsewhere will staff the clinic.
The clinic has doctors travelling in or conducting tele-medicine.
The clinic services are covered by OHIP, and the clinic does not directly sell marijuana, Levy said. For patients that end up being prescribed marijuana, the clinic connects them with a cannabis counsellor who educates them on the drug's use and helps put them in touch with a licensed producer.
Levy said one of the reasons they opened in Windsor was due to the number of people in pain from repetitive factory work.
Dr. Darren Cargill, a palliative care physician in Windsor, told CBC News many doctors will be reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana without sufficient evidence to guide them toward that.
"I think one of the biggest barriers that physicians have in prescribing medical marijuana is that right now, there's a real, sort of, dearth of evidence supporting it," said Cargill, who recently made similar points on Twitter.
"Now that doesn't necessarily mean the medical marijuana doesn't have its benefits and that these benefits may not be discovered over time, but the problem is, is that it really hasn't been put through the same rigour as other medical therapies."
For this reason, Cargill sees it as a "chicken and the egg situation," in which physicians won't feel comfortable prescribing medical marijuana without evidence to point to — though that evidence will be hard to generate if it is never prescribed.
To reach that point, Cargill said money would have to be put into clinical trials to compare the use of medical marijuana to current therapies.