Upfront Victoria clinic offers advice on safe use of pot

It’s hard to miss the large white letters spelling CANNABIS on the exterior of a Victoria business, opening today, that aims to educate the public on the safe use of marijuana. And you’re not supposed to.

The National Access Cannabis Centre, at Quadra Street and Kings Road, wants to be upfront about the services of its pharmacist, physician and cannabis experts. It’s all for people who use marijuana to combat everything from arthritis to headaches and insomnia or want to get high in the healthiest way, said Alex Abellan, founder of the new company. Four years in the making, it’s the first in what is meant to be a national franchised chain.

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“The community has needed this for a long time,” Abellan, 50, said outside the $120,000 reno on the former site of Bong City.

National Access Cannabis will not be providing any pot, either in leaf form or in creams, tinctures, or chocolates, Abellan stressed. Staff will work with the handful of dispensaries in town or order pot from providers licensed by Health Canada.

That said, Abellan said he hopes to provide one-stop shopping in the future.

Currently, he said, dispensaries — which he credits with getting marijuana off the street — operate in a grey area of the law. “We’re trying to change the legislation to make these places legal.”

Pot costs from $7 to $12 per gram. Abellan said he uses about 1.5 grams a day to combat post-traumatic stress disorder but does not smoke recreationally.

For now, physician consultations will be done via video calls on Skype but an MD is expected to be at the clinic in three months, able to diagnose and write medical declarations that customers can use to purchase medical marijuana.

Pharmacist Lianne Angell will be on staff two days a week.

Abellan expects people to poke their heads in today, and doesn’t sound worried about attracting customers given the popularity of the city’s pot dispensaries.

The centre will sell access cards for $249 to allow customers to consult with a physician, learn about drug interactions, safe dosages and pot products.

That and getting consultant fees from medical-marijuana growers will be how the business hopes to make money.

“The card is a really big aspect,” Abellan said. If users are stopped by police, it will allow officers to see them as “patients approved by Health Canada to use medical marijuana.”

The centre has a large kitchen for providing classes on cooking with cannabis and will have equipment to extract derivatives from pot for customers who require concentrated dosages.

Customers will be registered on narcotic-tracking software approved by PharmaNet, Abellan said.

Victoria’s will be a corporate store, but Abellan said there are about 15 committed buyers out of 40 interested in putting up $85,000 apiece for franchises, including four up-Island.


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