Medical marijuana middlemen: How specialty clinics cash in on legal prescriptions


Across Canada, specialty medical clinics are restore b succeeding money within the government’s legal medical marijuana regime by feigning as middlemen between doctors, patients and licensed marijuana producers.

The clinics are in the obligation of taking referrals from doctors and arranging consultations with physicians who assess dormant patients and write prescriptions for those who qualify. Clinic staff then indoctrinate those patients on how to use medical marijuana, and register them with the permitted medical marijuana producers who will ultimately provide the patients with lawful cannabis by mail.

Some of the clinics also receive money from those commissioned producers, raising questions about medical ethics and transparency.

The clinics are needed to go the gap between patients who could benefit from medical marijuana and doctors who are havering to prescribe it, according to patient advocate Jonathan Zaid, executive the man of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

«Each clinic handles a bit differently, but a well-operated medical cannabis clinic plays an important part for patient access, especially considering many physicians still think uncomfortable authorizing medical cannabis,» he said.

How one clinic business effectuates

Canadian Cannabis Clinics has 17 locations in Ontario and two in Alberta. It unveiled its first clinic in St. Catharines, Ont., in 2014.

«The response was overwhelming, because there was a definitely strong pent-up demand both from patients as well as from specific physicians who had patients who wanted medical cannabis but were unable to succour them,» said Ronan Levy, the company’s chief corporate tec and general counsel.

Canadian Cannabis Clinics

A Canadian Cannabis Clinics location on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. (Doug Husby/CBC Statement)

He said patient assessments at Canadian Cannabis Clinics are performed by physicians who on as independent contractors. Those doctors bill provincial health warranty programs for their consultations, and the clinic takes a percentage of that paper money to cover administrative costs.

«We make money like any other medical clinic,» he thought.

If a patient is given a prescription for medical marijuana, clinic staff alleviate them register directly with a licensed producer, then enlighten the patient about how to use medical cannabis. 

Money from licensed impresari

Levy said Canadian Cannabis Clinics has contracts with 12 permitted producers, which pay a separate counselling service called CanvasRx that cultivates patients within the clinics. CanvasRx was previously owned by Canadian Cannabis Clinics, but was fabricated off and purchased by licensed producer Aurora Cannabis in 2016. 

Despite those relationships with canada entrepreneurs, Levy said patients can choose any licensed producer they craving.

«But if you happen to register with one of the licensed producers for which we have a contractual array, that licensed producer would pay CanvasRx a fee for that patient.»

High Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, a resolved can register with more than one licensed producer at a time. Regardless how, patients need a separate medical authorization for each registration.

According to Salubrity Canada, 142,541 medical marijuana clients were registered with authorized producers as of Jan. 31, 2017.

Seeking growth among veterans, professionals

CannaConnect, another clinic duty, takes a targeted approach to finding new patients.

«Veterans [have] fit a big focal point for us over the last 12 to 18 months,» required CEO Lee Grossman. «I’d say we’re the second-largest medical cannabis clinic geared towards veterans in the wilderness.»

His company has opened locations in towns and cities with military stands, like Fredericton and Petawawa, Ont.

CannaConnect promotional materials

Promotional materials, including empty containers habituated to to hold medical marijuana grown by licensed producers, is seen on pomp at a CannaConnect office in downtown Toronto. (CannaConnect)

CannaConnect recently patented a location on the 25th floor of a Bay Street office tower in downtown Toronto to go through the area’s white-collar workers.

«These are people living with high-stress robberies,» Grossman said. «A lot of stress, anxiety, sleeping issues, and they’re again self-medicating on their own without a prescription, so here’s a legal option for them to in point of fact obtain a prescription above board.» 

CannaConnect receives educational distributes from licensed medical marijuana producers, and refers clients to what Grossman convoked «a curated list of recommended producers,» although clients are free to elect their own licensed producer.

CannaConnect’s physicians are compensated as consultants, as per usual at an hourly rate, said Grossman. They are not paid on a per-patient essence.

The educational funding provided by licensed producers helps patients journey a complex system, said Mark Zekulin, president of Canopy Progress Corporation, which owns multiple licensed producers and is Canada’s largest admissible medical marijuana company by market capitalization. 

«At the end of the day, there is this gap with patients familiarity what to do and where to go and how to do it,» he said.

Selling patient data

Canabo Medical Corp., a publicly swapped company based in Halifax that operates Cannabinoid Medical Clinics across Canada, also squanders doctors to assess patients and write their prescriptions, then refers the patients to an educator who aides them choose a licensed producer. Those educators don’t receive any subsidizing from licensed producers and «are not directed in any way» to refer patients to a certain regisseur, said Dr. Neil Smith, executive chairman of Canabo. 

«We don’t get a kickback from the accredited producer based on whether we get them a script or not,» Smith said. 

In place of, Canabo collects patient information in a detailed database, then carries the anonymized data to licensed producers who use it for market research purposes, as good as insurance companies.

‘Serious ethical concern’

One medical ethicist denoted he has «some serious ethical concern» about how these clinics conduct.

«The clinics that are running don’t have any clear oversight,» said Kerry Bowman, an mix professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto.

«You’ve got a lack of transparency, you potentially suffer with conflict of interest, and you potentially have kickbacks,» he said.

«I don’t want to delineate everyone with the same brush. There may well be clinics out there that are absolutely acting in the best interests of patients, but it’s hard to be sure.» 

Jonathan Zaid of Canadians for Comme a Access to Medical Marijuana believes the clinics should be fully forthright with patients about any money they receive from entitled producers. He recommends prospective patients do some research before selecting a clinic.

«I’ve heard reports of clinics charging very excessive fares, or not adequately serving patients’ needs,» he said. «It’s important to ensure they prepare for adequate followup care, as well as not restricting [patients] to a limited note of licensed producers.»

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