Cannabis can be used to treat more than 40 different medical conditions
Montreal’s first medical cannabis clinic, which opened in 2014 at its location on Amherst Street, provides a clean, modern environment where patients can get prescriptions and support in moving away from pharmaceutical drugs. Entering the clinic, two glass cases stand in the window, showing off a variety of vaporizers of all shapes and sizes.
Medical marijuana is expected to impact the future of health and affect pharmaceutical companies.
Santé Cannabis does not directly distribute cannabis to patients, but has nine part-time physicians to assess patients on their eligibility to receive a medical marijuana prescription.
The patients then meet with Adam Greenblatt, executive director at Santé Cannabis and cannabis educator, who connects patients with licensed medical marijuana producers. Santé Cannabis offers private follow ups while support groups continue to create a community for patients who use medical marijuana.
According to Greenblatt, there are over 40 different conditions that may qualify a patient to obtain a medical marijuana prescription. This includes epilepsy, cancer, colitis, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord disease or injury, Crohn’s disease, and arthritic pain.
For some Santé Cannabis patients struggling with depression, Greenblatt said cannabis has led to a reduction and even elimination of their antidepressant medication. “I see patients who use cannabis to treat anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder,” he said.
Greenblatt hopes more patients and physicians will turn to the natural approach to treating conditions instead of using pharmaceuticals. “Right now it’s treated as a medicine of last resort,” he said. “In a lot of conditions marijuana should be the first thing to try.”
Marijuana may be seen as a safe alternative to many pharmaceuticals, not having the risky side effects and withdrawal symptoms associated to clinical medicine, according to Greenblatt.
Studies claim marijuana also has an additive effect: according to a study conducted by the University of San Francisco in 2011, pairing opioids with marijuana had a better result in effectively reducing pain. Greenblatt said there are no significant complications when pairing cannabis with other substances. “Generally it’s the other drug that’s more dangerous than cannabis,” he said.
According to Greenblatt, many people have stopped using certain pharmaceuticals after getting a prescription from the clinic, the most common prescription being opiate painkillers.
“Cannabis is really a plant medicine that has a really broad range of potential for medical uses,” he said. “There’s even cannabinoids that have antipsychotic properties,” he added in defence of concerns of cannabis contributing to psychosis.
Although cannabis may trigger psychosis in some people, Greenblatt said there are many other triggers that usually apply to those who are genetically predisposed.
Though there are users who find relief from anxiety in cannabis use, this may not be the case for everyone. “THC can reduce anxiety in some people, but it can provoke it, as well,” said Greenblatt.
“Anxiety and mental health issues are complex conditions and everyone’s anxiety is different. I have seen people turn their lives around with marijuana,” Greenblatt said. “People like elderly women with anxiety and depression, who have tried every anti-depressant and every [anxiety medication] under the sun. And then they discover marijuana and it’s night and day, it’s been life changing.”
Still, smoking too much cannabis can be a problem for some, said Greenblatt. Medications will affect everyone differently and marijuana is no different.
Greenblatt said the assumptions we have about different strains of cannabis are inaccurate. “Indica and sativa are not accurate terms,” Greenblatt said. “They are terms that describe the shape of a cannabis plant, [not its effect].”
Indica plants can be characterized as short and stubby with thick leaves and buds, while Sativa plants grow tall with slender leaves and wispy flowers. In production over the years, these two plants have been so commonly crossbred that these terms are generally inapplicable. Strains, which are independent from the shape of the plant, are defined by the different molecules, which result in each strain having a different level of THC or CBD. This is what leads to stimulating or calming effects and variations in smell from strain to strain, unlike the popular misconception that it is related to Indica or Sativa.
Aside from better cannabis education, Greenblatt sees the end of the ban on marijuana to be beneficial for patients and government to collect taxes. “Cannabis prohibition is a racist, destructive, stupid policy that has harmed an unfathomable amount of people,” said Greenblatt.
Greenblatt takes issue with using the word ‘marijuana.’ “[The term is] pejorative and harks back to when cannabis was first prohibited,” he said. Prohibition was used as a way to target minorities. “In the ‘20s and ‘30s white people didn’t smoke cannabis,” Greenblatt said. “Mexican immigrants in the United States did, black jazz musicians did, so cannabis prohibition was a way to target these minority groups without explicitly targeting them.”
Over regulation of cannabis creates a black market trade, but with the new Liberal government addressing new regulations towards the medical marijuana industry, Greenblatt hopes cannabis can operate fully within the law.
“You should be able to grow marijuana like you can grow tomatoes,” Greenblatt said. “No one should face criminal penalties for anything related to cannabis.” He said the legalization he envisions would have the government cover the costs of providing medical marijuana, while recreational users would be able to legally purchase cannabis.
As medical marijuana grows in popularity, smoking is not the only alternative for users to seek treatment. According to Greenblatt, there will be greater availability for cannabis byproducts, including pharmaceutical versions of cannabis in pill form, CBD supplements and possibly supplements with non-psychoactive cannabis molecules. As the medical cannabis industry moves forward, patients may look towards new and interesting ways of getting high or find familiarity in a good old fashioned joint.
Santé Cannabis is located at 1239 Amherst St. For more about their services, visit their website at santecannabis.ca.