Delving into the world of medical cannabis can be a frightening venture for anyone. “Do I have to be deathly ill to acquire cannabis for treatment?” or “aren’t they just drug dealers with a storefront?” are just two of the thousands of questions someone new to medical cannabis may be asking themselves. Those who have experienced these feelings of reluctance can rest assured there is a place that you can go to have your questions answered in a safe and comfortable space, without having the overly conflicting messages and click bait articles of some major news outlets and social media.
At MMJ Canada, CEO, Clint Younge works alongside Director of PR and creator of I Heart Dispensaries, Ben Rispin, and Rebecca Taube, Manager of the Hess Village location in Hamilton, ON and Founder of the LOST organization. They believe that education and healing is the most important aspect of their organization. According to Younge, MMJ is best considered a wellness retail boutique, where “[our] goal is to be a global brand, but more importantly it is to strengthen the community”, all while raising awareness of what medical cannabis can provide. “People over profits” is a saying at MMJ that can be witnessed through the staff and management’s consultative approach to assisting patients. “It’s really important for us to educate not only our staff, but the community as well. I run this store with complete transparency”, states Taube. The transparency is evident. Bud tenders help one another to answer their patients’ questions. The management deals directly with new and existing patients, and the on-site practitioner of traditional eastern medicine recommends not only the cannabis related products offered at MMJ, but other natural alternative products and healing exercises.
The demographics of MMJ’s patients span all age groups and ethnicities. However, the commonality between each is physical pain or mental illness. Both, when treated correctly, can lead to a better way of life.
It has been known for some years now that cannabis helps immensely with pain management. Indica strains, topical creams, and pure CBD (Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid) extract, among others, can rid the body of (even if just for the short term) pain caused by illness or injury without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. MMJ also has some canine patients who are treated for ailments like hip dysplasia and high anxiety with CBD-infused dog treats. While the evidence is clear about the effective pain management properties of medical cannabis, there are still many who are skeptical of medical cannabis and it’s effects on mental illness.
Taube, a sufferer of mental illness created The LOST Organization (Living Outside of Suffering and Trauma). LOST is a mental health support group which aims at changing the way the world approaches mental illness by removing the stigma and creating an accessible community for those who are suffering. LOST works very closely with MMJ and Collective Care, an initiative started by Younge and Rispin to raise funds for individuals and charities, to inform, guide and most importantly, listen to the needs of people who suffer from mental illness every day. These illnesses include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Perhaps you haven’t been diagnosed with one of the more, well known mental illnesses. Maybe you suffer from severe stress due to your line of work or an obligation to a very sick family member. Perhaps you just need to relax and be able to clear your mind and enjoy life. Rispin proclaims, “Recreation is an important part of what the brain needs. It plays largely into your happiness” and consequently your mental health. For the government, however, regardless of what the community says and feels, there is a specific difference between medical and recreational cannabis.
The Uphill Legal Battle
Lately, the Ontario government has been cracking down on cannabis dispensaries, raiding every storefront in every city. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products designed to help those suffering from mental and physical ailments are being seized by the police to be locked away in evidence rooms or destroyed. While MMJ Canada is continuously trying to work with the government to change legislation, the battle is uphill for now, and the entire Canadian market is waiting to see if and when Mr. Trudeau will make good on his promises.
Through the voices of their patients, MMJ and all affiliate organizations; Rispin believes the examples of real stories from real people will help to shape legislation to include medical dispensaries. Rispin speaks of his contact with the public, “Because I’ve been overseeing social media, I’m the one who was getting all the messages from people saying ‘thank you for getting me off opiates”. And to further the reach, through I Heart Dispensaries, Rispin encourages people to send their testimonials directly to government representatives at all levels. In turn, he has agreed to post the testimonials online in an effort to encourage more people to come forward.
The economical benefits are also apparent as has been confirmed in places like Colorado. The February 2017 tax remittance shows a total reported tax, license and fee revenue of over $17.7 million. This newly generated revenue increases significantly when added to the money being saved by not having to police archaic laws, backlog courts or imprison violators. Also, by creating jobs and more taxable incomes, the profits soar to near immeasurable heights.
MMJ is happy to pay taxes, help local economies, and fit into the industry wherever the government feels is the right place. Rispin explains, “[whether it’s] a free-market or mixed economy approach with cannabis, the focus of MMJ will not change.” He goes on to explain that working directly with the government and community to increase exposure and debunk the myths behind mental illness is “how we will help and benefit the most people”.
As part of the MMJ mission to bring medical cannabis and mental illness to light, Clint Younge spoke at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin, Germany on April 10-12, 2017. Other speakers included Tommy Chong, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and a number of high profile doctors and entrepreneurs.
For those interested in becoming a patient of MMJ Canada, you can book your free assessment by calling your nearest location or going to mmjcanada.ca, selecting your region (B.C. or Ontario) and clicking the appointments tab.