Signage is up

TSX-traded medical cannabis company opens first B.C. clinic in Chilliwack

With 14 across Canada, company CEO says three or four more clinics planned for B.C. in 2017

Chilliwack is now home to the first of “many” cannabis medical clinics in B.C. run by a publicly traded corporation that already has operations from Newfoundland to Alberta.

Canabo Medical Inc. opened its latest Cannabinoid Medical Clinic (CMClinics) on March 9 downtown Chilliwack on the second floor of a medical building on Main Street.

But for anyone looking for something similar to the now-shuttered WeeMedical Dispensary that was illegally operating in Chilliwack (and recently opened in Agassiz), Canabo’s operations couldn’t be more different.

“Our patients must register with a licensed producer, we do not deal with dispensaries and we are not owned by a licensed producer,” Canabo CEO John Philpott told the Progress Tuesday in a phone interview from Nova Scotia.

The company has been listed on the TSX Venture Exchange since November 2016 trading under the symbol CMM.

“Our patients must obey the law. If they are going to a dispensary we will kick them out of our practice. Dispensaries are illegal and there is no control over what [they] are issuing to patients.”

The company doesn’t have a storefront. There is no bud in jars. This is not the bong-and-bud style dispensary causing so much consternation in big cities and small towns across B.C.

“We are a very conservative model,” Philpott said. “Go low and slow.”

In fact, Philpott said at the 14 Cannabinoid Medical Clinics from Newfoundland to Alberta, cannabis is not even the first choice for their physicians. Synthetic cannabinoids such as nabilone are often a preferred starting point. Since 60 to 70 per cent of the cases they deal with are pain-focused, they tend to prescribe low-THC and high CBD products.

“Recreational users do not come see us,” Philpott said. “We don’t give them what they want.”

To get in the door, patients must get a referral from a family doctor. A referral form is available to download from the clinic’s website. Philpott said their clinics do all the follow-up care and provide a detailed report back to the referring doctor.

He added that Canabo is in fact primarily a research-based company, and they are currently amid a 7,500-patient study on medical marijuana and benzodiazepene use, the first phase of which is to be released at a conference on April 7.

And while Canabo comes to town with a slick corporate message and a professional medical approach, the Chilliwack clinic also comes with a name familiar to many in the local medical marijuana world.

Dr. Gwyllyn Goddard, who the company describes as having “over nine years’ experience in authorizing medical cannabis,” is leading the upstart clinic.

His resumé posted on his website describes his current role since Feb. 1 for Canabo as being responsible for “growth, recruitment, quality control, clinic buildouts, physician education and patient satisfaction in B.C. Saskatchewan and Manitoba.”

Goddard was in the news over the years as an outspoken advocate for cannabis to alleviate medical symptoms. Speaking to the Chilliwack Times in 2012, Goddard did not want to quantify the number of marijuana prescriptions he had written, but he said his client list included RCMP members, veterans and even “high-level city employees.”

Goddard said, at that time, doctors are afraid of being targeted by medical marijuana opponents.

“The thing any physician is scared of, everywhere in Canada, is loss of their licences,” he said in 2012.

Public acceptance of medical cannabis has risen significantly since that time, and with the promise of legalization on the horizon and many companies getting into the business, it’s legitimacy has grown.

Signs are up at the front of the building, in the hall and on the clinic’s door at the Chilliwack office but the door was locked Tuesday.

Canabo says it runs “Canada’s most respected and largest referral-only clinics for medical cannabis,” since beginning in 2014.

With 14 clinics now, they plan to open eight more in 2017, including three or four in B.C.

Canabo trades on the TSX-V under CMM with approximately 30 million shares that hit a high of $1.28 Nov. 10, 2016 down to a low of 70 cents as of March 21.

paul.henderson@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch