The Ontario’s government’s plan to regulate the sale of recreational marijuana use has raised concerns in the province’s medical marijuana community about how the program will work.

The recently-announced plan will see commercial marijuana sold through 40 Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets beginning July 1, 2018, and also through a website, but it’s otherwise vague in details. That worries clinics legally set up to work with doctors or nurses who help prescribe medicinal cannabis for people in need of it.

“The announcement didn’t have any mention of servicing or standards or anything for medicinal users, so obviously there’s still a lot of questions that patients are concerned about,” says Ryan Krelove, manager and educator, Medicinal Cannabis Clinic in Barrie.

The outlet is one of seven locations operated by Cannabis Supply Company based out of Brantford. There are many other privately-run clinics owned by other businesses.

“I’m speaking on behalf of my store, but obviously the sentiment is shared by (the industry),” Krelove added. “We do know that (the government) was talking more on the recreational side. This model doesn’t really take into affect what the industry and I think patients and consumers are really looking for. From all the information I’ve seen and accessed, (the preference) wouldn’t have been a government-controlled monopoly, but rather a regulated private sector.”

One of Krelove’s concerns is that the commercial availability of recreational marijuana could trigger some people to self-medicate their symptoms or conditions, as opposed to taking the appropriate steps of having doctors, practitioners or knowledgeable staff guide them and help them.

“Right now people (who need medicinal marijuana) have only a limited number of places to go – our store being one of them – where they are not only getting help with legal access and that process, but also a lot of education and knowledge on the government regulations and process, health care standards, different products and responsible consumption,” Krelove said.

“Strictly for the medicinal side, the issues would be whether the government is going to get these places set up in a time-effective manner and have the staff knowledgeable and trained to be able to help medicinal users as well.

“The concern is you’re going to have a government trying to control the people who don’t have the expertise or experience coming in to try and learn this, and won’t be prepared for that.”

He added that community education and community support is one of the biggest issues facing the industry.

“That’s the core service of our business,  providing that education because every (new) patient walking into my store that is looking to get legal access has no idea what the process is, what’s required and what are the rules and regulations,” Krelove said.

“There’s still the actual product side of it and the consumption side of it. As an industry, we’re hoping to continue to try to get as much of that information out there to as many people as possible. I believe the industry and a lot of consumers believe, that by going with a private retail route, you’d be able to see that continue and flourish much better as opposed to trying a completely different route.”