Cannabis compassion: When an Old Order family living north of London needed medical help for their six-year-old daughter, Canadian Canabis Clinics scrambled to help them out...

When an Old Order family living north of London needed medical help for their six-year-old daughter, Canadian Canabis Clinics scrambled to help them out
By Hank Daniszewski, The London Free Press

Monday, July 11, 2016 8:33:27 EDT PM

They don’t own a car or a computer. They don’t even have a phone.

But when an Old Order Mennonite couple from northern Huron County, north of London, needed to control seizures in their six-year old daughter, they turned to a form of medical marijuana.

When the hard-to-get cannabis oil medication almost ran out, a London clinic scrambled to provide them an alternative supply.

Using medical marijuana may seem like a “stretch” for the ultra-traditional religious sect, says one observer at a Mennonite liberal arts college in Southwestern Ontario.

The most conservative of Mennonites living in Ontario, marked by their dark clothing and the horses and buggies many still rely on, Old Order followers eschew modern conveniences and live a lifestyle most Canadians gave up in the 19th-century.

But Old Order Mennonites also have a tradition of seeking alternative treatments, as well as mainstream medicine, said Marlene Epp, a history professor at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo.

“The use of medical marijuana is new for all of us,” Epp said. “If it was prescribed and they felt it would help their child, I suspect they would go for it.”

The Mennonite family got their prescription from Canadian Cannabis Clinics on Wharncliffe Road.

The clinic opened in May 2015 and is part of a Toronto-based chain that specializes in medical marijuana prescriptions.

Delene Galloway, a registered practical nurse and a counsellor at the London clinic, said the family’s experience shows Health Canada’s existing system for ordering medical marijuana can be bottlenecked by bureaucracy and doesn’t work for communities who don’t have access to modern technology.

The family — Old Order Mennonites traditionally shun media attention — has a very traditional lifestyle, she said. They declined to comment and did not want their name disclosed.

Their six-year-old daughter suffers from severe epileptic seizures and their family doctor referred them to the London clinic to get a prescription for Cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, Galloway said.

The oil has almost no THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that causes a high, and is mainly used for medicinal purposes such as treating seizures, she said.

Under existing law, medical marijuana must be ordered through a list of federally-approved suppliers, generally using the Internet and a credit card number,

The Cannabidiol was effective in treating the girl’s condition, but the family had trouble filling refills for the prescription. Galloway said Mettrum, the Toronto-based supplier, had some CBD on hand but was waiting for Health Canada approval to release the batch to the public.

Meanwhile, the family cut back on the dosage of their dwindling supply, until the girl suffered a seizure and had to be hospitalized.

That was a financial hardship for the family, because Old Order Mennonites choose to pay for medical care with help from their community, even though they pay taxes.

With only a few days of supply left, the desperate family reached out to Galloway for help, using a neighbor’s phone.

“We had to scurry to find someone who has CBD oil. Not all of the suppliers have it and those that do, can’t keep up,” said Galloway.

Their struggle was made more difficult because the Mennonite family had no computer and paid by cheque rather than credit card.

Galloway appealed to the directors of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, who rushed the bureaucratic process to find another supplier for the CBD oil. The company also paid the cost of the prescription.

Galloway said she was skeptical about medical marijuana when she first started working at the clinic, but is now convinced it’s effective.

“I hear patients saying ‘Thank you,’ you gave me life back.’ I hear that almost every day.”

Galloway said it was especially gratifying helping the Mennonite family.

“They’re such sweet, gentle people.”


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.