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Last day for Vernon walk-in clinic brings concerns for medical marijuana patients

This sign was posted on the front door of the closing Gartree Medical Clinic this morning, March 24, 2017.
March 24, 2017 - 10:30 AM

VERNON - Patients were lined up outside the closing Gartree Medical Clinic this morning, many of them trying to renew prescriptions for medical marijuana.

“This is the best place, they don’t judge you,” local resident Scott Halverson says as he waits in line around 8 a.m. on Friday. “These are good people.”

Halverson doesn’t have a family doctor, and says he comes to Gartree because the doctors here are more open to natural remedies than other clinics in town. 

But, this is the clinic’s last day. Due to a lack of physicians, a decision was made earlier this year to shut down, leaving the city with only two other walk-ins, the North Okanagan Medical Clinic at the Real Canadian Superstore, and the Sterling Centre Clinic, which opened after the Vernon Family Doctors Clinic announced it was closing.

“It’s going to be devastating for the whole community,” Halverson says of the closure.

Patients stand in line, some of whom are trying to renew prescriptions for medical marijuana before the clinic closes.
Patients stand in line, some of whom are trying to renew prescriptions for medical marijuana before the clinic closes.

Another patient standing in line, who wished to remain anonymous, says he travels from Kelowna to see the doctors at Gartree Medical, because they are more willing to prescribe medicinal marijuana.

“My family doctor basically said ‘we don’t touch that stuff, go somewhere else for that,’” he says.

He’s aware of people travelling from as far away as Alberta to get a prescription from Gartree.

“When word first got out a couple years ago they were more relaxed here, more open to it, there were line ups. Big ones,” he says.

Because medical marijuana licenses have to be renewed on a yearly basis, patients are concerned about what they will do now that Gartree is closing.

“The Skype doctors are getting better and better, but they’re still charging $500 bucks some of them,” he says.

Some patients leaving Gartree today say they were given handouts for the Medical Cannabis Resource Centre. On its website, the company says it: “arranges for patients to meet with a qualified doctor who has an understanding of cannabis and cannabis-derived medicines in a compassionate and non-judgmental environment.”

According to the handout, the centre provides service in both Kamloops and Kelowna.

iNFOnews.ca spoke with other people seeking to renew marijuana prescriptions, but not everyone agreed to an interview because of the murky legal landscape of marijuana. While the federal government is moving to legalize marijuana, current laws remain in effect and prohibit the possession of marijuana without a Health Canada approved license.

Patients were given handouts for the Medical Cannabis Resource Centre, which connects people with doctors who are familiar with marijuana. Because it is closing, Gartree Medical is no longer writing new cannabis prescriptions.
Patients were given handouts for the Medical Cannabis Resource Centre, which connects people with doctors who are familiar with marijuana. Because it is closing, Gartree Medical is no longer writing new cannabis prescriptions.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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