Since first opening in June, the Marijuana for Trauma centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia has allowed trauma sufferers to access medical marijuana that would otherwise be denied them. Originally established to help veterans dealing with the symptoms of posttraumatic disorder, centre staff report that the list of patients now includes non-veterans as well.
"We have cancer patients that are coming through, people that are in constant pain," said volunteer Joe MacGillivray. "People that just had surgeries." He added that patients looking for an alternative to heavy pain medication are finding that marijuana is much more effective, both for relieving pain and avoiding the mental confusion that often comes with drugs such as Oxycontin and Dilaudid. In an interview with CBC news, MacGillivray reveals that he is a veteran and a PTSD sufferer himself and found that marijuana helped relieve many of his most upsetting symptoms. "Before, I tried suicide twice," he said. "I still have my days like everybody else, but it doesn't hit as hard and it's a little more easy to deal with."
At the centre, volunteers like Joe MacGillivray and centre president, Vince Rigby, help patients deal with medical providers licensed to provide medical marijuana. This includes helping with the proper dosage,, learning about the best marijuana strains, and dealing with the legal barriers that can often deter people in need. There are presently eighty patients being helped through the centre but at least another thirty are still on the waiting list. According to Rigby, many family doctors are extremely reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients due to the stigma associated with it. Even when prescriptions are given, doctors often fail to provide instructions on how marijuana can be used most effectively. That's when places like the Marijuana for Trauma Centre are most needed.
Canada's Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) came into effect in April, 2014. The requirements for being approved as a marijuana provider are rigorous and often take more a year to gain approval. Under the regulations, anyone seeking to use marijuana for medical purposes needs to obtain a recognized medical document from a health care provider before registering with the licensed provider of their choice. Since existing drug legislation bans providing marijuana through a storefront, patients can only purchase marijuana in dried form and in limited quantities (less than a 30-day supply).
Despite the availability of places such as the Marijuana for Trauma centre, many chronic pain and trauma patients in Canada still find themselves in a legal quandary regarding medical marijuana. People living far from large cities often need to travel long distances to get access and can even face arrest if they fail to prove that the marijuana in their possession was legally obtained. The Federal government under the current administration has long opposed decriminalization of marijuana and even using it for medical purposes remains controversial for many politicians.