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 40-50 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.