New clinic in re­gion touts the ben­e­fits of med­i­cal mar­i­juana

Water­loo Med­i­cal Cannabis Clinic launches to meet the re­gion’s grow­ing de­mand for the prod­uct

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE - VERON­ICA REINER

THE IN­SPI­RA­TION FOR THE new­est cannabis clinic in the Water­loo Re­gion came from Dave Schenk’s per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with the medic­i­nal prop­er­ties of the drug, slated to be le­gal for recre­ational use in July.

“I was re­ly­ing on ibupro­fen to get through the days from arthri­tis pain,” explained Schenk, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker who’s now man­ager of the Water­loo Med­i­cal Cannabis Clinic, part of The Clinic Net­work, which op­er­ates 10 med­i­cal mar­i­juana cen­tres across the coun­try.

“I went to my doc­tor, and she said that I have to stop be­cause it was dam­ag­ing my liver. Then she sug­gested med­i­cal cannabis, which sur­prised me. She re­ferred me to the only clinic in town back then, two years ago in Kitch­ener. And I didn’t have a good ex­pe­ri­ence there. I men­tioned that to my friend, and he said ‘You’re an en­tre­pre­neur. Do some­thing about it.’”

Af­ter that, Schenk re­searched the mar­ket and found that there was only one cannabis clinic in the Kitch­ener-Water­loo area when about five stores are needed to meet the de­mand for med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

“Lon­don has six cannabis clin­ics,” explained Schenk. “Kitch­ener-Water­loo is the size of Lon­don; we only had one. And now we’re two. In Toronto, I don’t even know how many they have. Tons. Fif­teen, min­i­mum. We’re un­der­served here, and that’s why we’re here.”

Jil­lian Hen­der­son is the man­ager of Cana­dian Cannabis Clin­ics, the only other cannabis clinic in the Kitch­ener-Water­loo area. De­mand for the prod­uct has grown, she says.

“When our clinic first opened in Oc­to­ber 2015, it started from zero – there were no pa­tients,” said Hen­der­son. “In that short time, two-and-a-half years, we’ve gone from hav­ing ini­tially no reg­is­tered pa­tients to hav­ing an in­creas­ingly high de­mand, we’re open four to five days a week, a lot more than zero.”

“We opened a Guelph clinic to take some of the pres­sure off of Kitch­ener,” she added. “Be­cause we had peo­ple who lived in Guelph com­ing to Kitch­ener, we opened the Guelph clinic to sup­port that com­mu­nity.”

Af­ter re­al­iz­ing how high the de­mand was for this busi­ness, Schenk part­nered with his long-time friend, Bob Fer­gu­son, to make the dream a re­al­ity.

“I pre­sented a busi­ness plan to the larger cannabis clin­ics out there, and se­lected one that had an of­fer­ing that ad­dressed the chal­lenges of the first store I went to,” said Schenk. “Bob wasn’t a be­liever in cannabis, so I said ‘here, try this!’ He did, and he couldn’t be­lieve how it could cure his arthri­tis, came out of re­tire­ment and said ‘I’m in. This is in­cred­i­ble.’ So that’s how we started this in Water­loo. We wanted to bring it north Water­loo to ser­vice the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties too – Elmira, Wool­wich, that sort of thing. That’s how we started.”

“One of the things we re­ally like is to help peo­ple out,” added Fer­gu­son, as­sis­tant man­ager. “It’s just a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, see­ing the client’s look on their face when they talk about what’s worked for them. I wish I could get that mes­sage out to ev­ery­body.”

They fre­quently host ed­u­ca­tional events show­cas­ing the medic­i­nal prop­er­ties of cannabis. Medic­i­nal ver­sions con­cen­trate on el­e­vated lev­els of cannabid­iol (CBD), which avoid the psy­cho-ac­tiv­ity (get­ting high) ef­fects of recre­ational cannabis. They teach about the ben­e­fits through var­i­ous videos, brochures, and pre­sen­ta­tions. The turnout of these events sur­prises both of the own­ers.

“We did an event in St. Ja­cobs,” said Schenk. “We were ex­pect­ing maybe 4050 peo­ple, and 85 showed up. So it was just packed. We’re just glad we can ser­vice this new mar­ket. Ed­u­ca­tion is the first part. Not only with clients, but with the doc­tors. Doc­tors have egos; they’re not trained, they’re used to writ­ing scripts for opi­oids. Ob­vi­ously, there’s a cri­sis now, and they have to change that, right? So my doc­tor did. We’re ac­tu­ally hav­ing an event June 20 for nurse prac­ti­tion­ers, to help them un­der­stand what we do. We don’t want them to re­learn, restudy, just to refer. We have spe­cial­ists here.”

Both fore­see changes to the busi­ness when recre­ational mar­i­juana be­comes

le­gal­ized on July 1.

“What is hap­pen­ing is a change in at­ti­tude,” said Fer­gu­son. “Peo­ple are less afraid to dis­cuss cannabis; peo­ple are go­ing to be less afraid to go to their doc­tor and ask for cannabis.”

That sen­ti­ment is echoed by fel­low clinic op­er­a­tor Hen­der­son.

“I think there will be an in­crease in de­mand on the med­i­cal side. There’s a stigma, we’ve got more peo­ple step­ping for­ward say­ing ‘med­i­cal cannabis worked for me.’ A lot of peo­ple.”

Schenk predicted an in­crease in profit for the clinic af­ter Canada Day, claim­ing that the 2014 le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis in the state Colorado came with in­creased prof­its.

Prices of the prod­uct vary de­pend­ing on the type of mar­i­juana and the amount, with a typ­i­cal oil cost­ing about $90 for 40ml. “That lasts a month, a month-and-a-half,” said Schenk. “It de­pends. Each per­son’s dif­fer­ent. It’s so safe that you can in­crease or de­crease your dosage to what you need. And with CBD you don’t get high. You don’t even no­tice it un­til the pain goes away.”

Open since March, the clinic is lo­cated at 99 North­field Dr. E., unit 204 in Water­loo. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on­line at www.the­clin­ic­net­work.ca.

[VERON­ICA RENIER / THE OB­SERVER]

David Schenk and Bob Fer­gu­son see ed­u­ca­tion as a key part of their new ven­ture. Their next ed­u­ca­tional ses­sion will take place July 11 at the Con­estoga Coun­try Club in Con­estogo.

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