I recently sat down with Steve Fader, Owner of Natural Health Services, to discuss the current process for getting a medical cannabis prescription in Canada.
Steve started Natural Health Services in 2015 after personally experiencing the benefits of medical cannabis.
“I wasn’t a cannabis user until 2014. I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and weight gain due to the stress of running a construction contracting business and wanted a natural alternative to traditional prescription drugs” says Steve. After exiting his construction business he and a partner started Natural Health Services.
Steve describes Natural Health Services as a “full service medical cannabinoid clinic.” They qualify patients for medical cannabis prescriptions and provide education and resources. They started in Calgary, AB and have plans to expand across western Canada.
There are a number of medical marijuana clinics in Canada, which qualify patients and write prescriptions. Steve tells me that Natural Health Services is one of the only clinics in Canada that does not charge the patient a fee in order to access a physician and get a prescription.
This is worth noting and patients should be very leery of clinics that charge for access to this service. I have heard first-hand horror stories of patients being charged $400 and never hearing from the clinic again despite following up multiple times.
I asked Steve to provide an overview of the process for getting a medical cannabis prescription.
Alison: How is a qualifying clinic different then a regular medical clinic?
Steve: A patient has to have a confirmed medical condition prior to coming to Natural Health Services and we require documentation to support this. There are two ways we can confirm the existing condition. First, the patient can authorize a referral to their physician or specialist so we can gain access to the patient’s medical records. The second option is the patient can provide us with a copy of documentation they have in their possession confirming the condition.
Alison: Can you describe the process for getting the prescription?
Steve: Once we have the documentation confirming the medical condition, the patient will have a consultation with one of our physicians. Through the consultation, the physician will decide if medical cannabis is an appropriate treatment option. Consultations can be in-person or by video conference.
If the patient’s condition is approved then the physician will write the prescription, which is sent directly to a Licensed Producer (LP) by Natural Health Services. The patient will also have to fill out a LP registration form that will be sent along with the prescription.
A prescription is not legal under the regulations unless the original copy is sent directly to the LP. The prescription can’t be given to the patient, who would then take it to the LP, as it would be invalid.
Once the prescription is received and verified by the LP, they contact the patient directly and instruct them on how to register online and purchase products.
At Natural Health Services we also educate our patients on a variety of topics including how to interact with the LP, consumption options and methods, how to use a vaporizer, how to properly dose, what strains of cannabis to consider for your condition, etc.
Alison: How much cannabis can be prescribed and for how long?
Steve: The exact amount of cannabis that is prescribed is dependent on the condition and the consumption method.
The length of time the prescription is valid is dependent on the clinic and physician. Some clinics will write a 12-month prescription and don’t check in with their patients. We don’t think this is responsible. At Natural Health Services we have a policy of quarterly follow-ups so that we are supporting our patients. Also, this makes us compliant with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta who mandate quarterly follow-ups for Schedule 1 narcotics.
Alison: What is the biggest challenge for someone trying to access medical cannabis for the first time?
Steve: Access to information – education on what conditions qualify, how to use cannabis, that it’s even available. Finding a service like Natural Health Services that can facilitate the process.
Accessing medical cannabis can be an overwhelming process but there are resources to help you. Steve mentioned that Leafly is another great resource for information on strains and dispensaries.
If you need information on medical cannabis or are trying to get a prescription, I would recommend contacting Natural Health Services. My mom and I enjoyed working with them. You can create an account online to get the process started or you can reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org and find them online at naturalhealthservices.ca.