Adam Greenblatt - Lift Cannabis Forum Panelist Q&A

Tell us about how you got started in the cannabis industry. I got my start in the movement long before I was a part of the industry.  When I was 18, my dad - who has lived with Multiple Sclerosis my whole life - began...

Tell us about how you got started in the cannabis industry.

I got my start in the movement long before I was a part of the industry.  When I was 18, my dad - who has lived with Multiple Sclerosis my whole life - began using medical cannabis.  Initially it was to help him deal with nausea, but after a few frightening incidents involving other medications, cannabis took a far more prominent place in his medicine cabinet, as it also happened to help with a host of other symptoms.  The experiences during this time in my life really catalyzed my passion for cannabis and the drug policy reform movement, and I've been immersed ever since.

My foray into the industry came later.  In 2006 I became a Designated Grower under MMAR and was working at a compassion centre.  I left the centre in 2010 to co-found a non-profit dispensary called the Medical Cannabis Access Society (MCAS) with my partner, Erin Prosk.  Erin had just moved back to Montreal from Vancouver after finishing her MSc.  We started a small edibles kitchen in our apartment with trim from the garden I kept for my dad.  This small kitchen turned into MCAS, which was from 2010 - 2014, the most productive cannabis kitchen east of BC.

MCAS was also very focused on medical outreach.  We were the first  to attend the Family Medicine Forum - a forum now saturated with Licensed Producers and cannabis industry.  It was there that I met Dr. Michael Dworkind, who is now our medical director at Santé Cannabis.

We were also intent on raising the bar for dispensaries in terms of professionalism and quality of care.  MCAS was a founding member of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) alongside many of Canada's oldest dispensaries.  CAMCD developed a set of standards for dispensaries and continues to lobby for their inclusion in the regulatory framework, and is now playing a critical role in BC where municipalities are now moving to regulate.

When and how did Sante Cannabis start?  What does Sante Cannabis do?

Having cut our teeth so to speak in the dispensary world,  we saw an opportunity to break completely new ground in Quebec with the MMPR, but it meant making some sacrifices - namely, closing MCAS, which we did on March 31, 2014.  Unlike in other provinces, Quebec has never had a medical clinic dedicated to cannabis and cannabinoid medicine.  There have been a slew of dispensary outfits over the years, but never a true medical clinic.  So with a core group of patients and a team of physicians, we started Santé Cannabis.

Working with and helping people with cannabis is truly its own reward.  I am constantly amazed and humbled by the patients we see, especially when they report tremendous success.  As an activist, it is also rewarding to see the fruits of our labour become reality, the most recent example being the R v Smith case.  Cannabis is being legalized in incremental steps, and that is due in large part to the work of activists who have been at this for decades.

We started beta testing the clinic model in April of 2014 after closing the dispensary, and we publicly launched that November.  Our mission at Sante Cannabis is to re-integrate cannabis into the practice of medicine and pharmacy.  It is an evolution of our dispensary work, in that the focus continues to be on facilitating access and filling gaps in the regulatory framework.  The main difference now is that our operations are compliant with the MMPR, and also fall under a provincial auspice via the cannabis prescribing guidelines from the College des Medecins du Quebec.

Santé Cannabis physicians evaluate patients for the use of cannabis or cannabinoids, and prescribe when appropriate. Patients are followed up with every three months at a minimum, and they access their supply via MMPR Licensed Producers.  Our cannabis educators help guide patients through strain selection, dosing, risk reduction, and selection of a Licensed Producer, all of which is medically supervised by our physician team.  We also sell vaporizers and other implements, and we help patients transform their dried cannabis into other preparations and derivatives.  Santé Cannabis will also soon be piloting the Quebec Medical Cannabis Registry, which is a massive pharmacovigilance study being led by Dr. Mark Ware.

Describe the types of patients you help?  Any specific demographics, or are they from all walks of life?

The majority of the patients we see are living with chronic pain, but it doesn't stop there, we see patients from all walks of life with a wide range of conditions.  We see a growing number of pediatric patients living with intractable epilepsies, people living with Multiple Sclerosis, HIV, Crohn's/Colitis, Cancer, PTSD, and many many others.

What are the future plans for Sante, and for yourself?

Our plan for Santé Cannabis is to turn it into a centre of excellence in cannabis and cannabinoid medicine.  Expect more Sante Cannabis clinics to open in the months and years to come, and I hope that one day we'll be able to legally dispense on-site as we once did before.

As for me personally, I intend to continue enterprising in the cannabis space as laws and regulations evolve, develop new brands and projects, and to continue my advocacy work.  In the immediate future I see cannabis extracts keeping me quite busy.  I have all kinds of project ideas, enough I'm sure to keep me occupied for decades to come.

What do you find rewarding about this industry?  What are the biggest changes you've seen since you got your start in it?

Working with and helping people with cannabis is truly its own reward.  I am constantly amazed and humbled by the patients we see, especially when they report tremendous success.  As an activist, it is also rewarding to see the fruits of our labour become reality, the most recent example being the R v Smith case.  Cannabis is being legalized in incremental steps, and that is due in large part to the work of activists who have been at this for decades.

That said, the biggest change I see nowadays is a shift away from the in-your-face civil disobedience tactics and towards compliance, regulation, and working within the system.  In many ways, Santé Cannabis embodies this transition.  The social justice warriors are being gradually replaced by an industry lobby of business people and bankers.  This isn't necessarily bad, but it is a tough pill for activists to swallow in particular, especially in the last couple years since the MMPR were implemented.

Also there has been a massive shift in terms of public acceptance and proximity to the cause.  Ten years ago, there was a much lower level of awareness.  Nowadays everyone has seen the CNN documentaries (WEED 1, 2, 3) and everyone has an aunt, a brother, a cousin, a parent, or a friend who has used medical cannabis, so it's a lot closer to home for people now than it ever has been.  Ten years ago I never would have guessed that someone like Liam McKnight would become a Canadian hero and poster-child for the medical marijuana movement, and yet here we are.

Feature image, Erin Prosk left and Adam Greenblatt right.

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