While it’s unknown if retail stores selling marijuana for recreational use will be welcomed in Orillia, the city does have its first medical cannabis clinic.
Justin Whitehall opened Avail Cannabis Clinics' Orillia location in June and is planning to hold a grand opening in November. He also runs a clinic in Barrie and will soon open one in Toronto.
“We’ve been working on this for a year and we’re finally executing it,” Whitehall, company CEO and clinic director, said during an interview in the narrow space Avail occupies at 154 Mississaga St. E. “It was all surrounding the date of Oct. 17.”
Recreational cannabis became legal in Canada on Oct. 17, and Whitehall has seen a spike in business since that day.
“We’re at least 25 per cent busier than before Oct. 17,” he said. “The public perception has changed surrounding cannabis in general. The public is more inclined to go the medical (marijuana) route.”
While clients pay for the cannabis, the associated services, such as consultation and education, are free at Avail.
Clients have the option of joining a study in which Avail is involved if they suffer chronic pain or anxiety. Those taking part in the study will receive their cannabis free for the duration.
Whitehall saw opportunity when he looked at setting up shop in Orillia.
“We’re finding a lot of people who are signing up wouldn’t have been able to get access to cannabis without a clinic here in Orillia,” he said. “We would like people to know that they don’t have to travel anymore for a prescription.”
There are a number of clinics in Barrie, but they missed the boat, Whitehall said.
“A lot of those clinics overlooked Orillia because it’s so close to Barrie.”
“Although cannabis is not for everyone, it can be a great option for somebody who is suffering – a natural option,” he said.
The Orillia location is open Tuesday to Friday from 12 to 5 p.m.