New Danforth clinic opened to provide family health care, not sell marijuana says owner

East York Mirror / by Tara Hatherly

New Age Medical Clinic aims to bring back an old-fashioned style of health care and help people fight drug addiction, not sell marijuana, says its owner.

Though he’s open to selling medical marijuana from the new clinic if Health Canada allows it, Sam Mellace said the issue has no bearing on the operation of his facility.

“This clinic has been under construction for two years. … We did not open a clinic based on the fact that doctors can dispense,” Mellace said. “We had no idea that Health Canada was going to potentially allow doctors to dispense.”

Health Canada is considering shifting distribution of medical marijuana to commercial operations. Mellace, a well-known medical marijuana activist and grower, stressed the change is just a consideration at this point.

While media are pegging New Age Medical Clinic as Canada’s first commercial medical marijuana dispensary, for all he knows, he might never be able to sell marijuana from the facility, Mellace said.

“Everybody, all the newspaper people and everybody, started hitting up on medical marijuana. I guess because of who I am,” he said. “We didn’t have an intent to distribute marijuana from here at all. … Whether we can dispense out of here or not, it doesn’t matter to us.”

Once up and running, the clinic will provide services Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mellace said he expects it will serve between 50 and 100 patients a day, noting it already has a wait list of about 500 people.

“It’s a family practice, and we just happen to have to have extra services that other clinics don’t offer, like drug intervention and counselling, education to educate people on the pharmaceutical drugs and what they can do to you compared to alternatives to medicine, naturopath for example. We have a psychologist, psychiatrist and we also do home visits,” said Mellace, noting home visits for patients who are bed-ridden and have restricted mobility are covered by OHIP.

By staying open late, the clinic helps people who work during the day refrain from using walk-in clinics or hospitals for evening care.

“You see another doctor, and another doctor, and another doctor, and they’re all different, and they all have different ways of treating symptoms,” Mellace said. “I’m trying to get back to the old-fashion family doctor style, where people have the family doctor to go to instead.”

Mellace dedicated the clinic to the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton, who he spoke with about it before Layton’s death.

“The concern was our society is becoming so dependent on pharmaceutical care,” he said of his conversations with the Layton.

“We (New Age Medical Clinic) want to be able to turn around and help people get off their addictions, whether it’s pharmaceutical, and/or street drugs, pertaining to heroin, cocaine, what the case might be.”

While doctors at the clinic are open to prescribing medical marijuana, Mellace said patients have to demonstrate a need through medical testing.

“There’s no way anything’s going to get through this clinic without scrutiny,” he said, adding, “If anybody thinks they’re going to get big, humongous licenses, not here. You will not get more than 10 grams a day, maximum … Three, five grams a day is more than reasonable.”

He plans to open about 10 more clinics in the Toronto area in the next year, before looking to expand across Canada. He’s also considering opening detox centres.

Mellace said he’s only received positive feedback about the clinic, while Toronto-Danforth Councillor Mary Fragedakis said she hasn’t heard any feedback at all.

“At the moment he’s not licensed to (dispense marijuana),” Fragedakis said.

“I expect though that should that change come, people will comment either for it or against it or both, and I guess those changes will determine the community’s reaction.”

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