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‘Why don’t you take the marijuana oil?’ – many seniors turning to cannabis to alleviate pain

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Medical marijuana
Medical marijuana

In 2003, Edith Jakobs became bedridden with ulcerative colitis. Her joints ached, she was always fatigued and she had to use the bathroom up to 40 times a day.

Jakobs turned to marijuana to help with some of the symptoms. It wasn’t ideal, since she was buying cannabis that was bred for recreational use off the street and it got her stoned. “But it was better than the alternative of bent over in terrible abdominal pain constantly,” she said.

Now there are cannabis products that are designed to alleviate pain and don’t get you high. Although Jakobs eventually found another method to treat her colitis, she uses prescribed medical marijuana to treat the occasional flare-up, as well as anxiety. After seeing how well medical cannabis worked for her, she’s made it her mission to help demystify the plant.

Edith Jakobs (Alex Rose/The CJN)

Jakobs, who’s cheerful and lively at 60, started a company called Medical Cannabis Concierge, which provides outpatient services for CannaMed Clinic, a medical clinic that assesses patients to determine if medical cannabis would be useful in treating their ailments. CannaMed is operated by Dr. Steven Orlov, Michael Shub and Alex Nisenker.

Jakobs provides patients with guidance and education beyond what the clinic generally offers. She got into the business after both she and her mother had unsatisfactory experiences when they started using medical cannabis.

“It took me eight months to get the right oil because nobody could direct me … so I moved to another strain and it changed my life,” she said.

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As for her mother, “They had all these educators that were in their 20s and there were all these old people with walkers in their 60s, 70s, 80s,” said Jakobs. “My mom looked at me and said, ‘This 20-something is telling me what I should be doing, but she doesn’t know what arthritis pain is.’ ”

Jakobs and her mother eventually found medical cannabis treatments that work for them, but lots of people give up without the proper support, she said. So she helps new medical cannabis users, regardless of what’s ailing them. Some of her clients are elderly, but Jakobs also assists business executives with packed schedules, coming down to their offices when they can spare a moment.

That makes her a natural partner for CannaMed. Nisenker said that CannaMed was created to provide medical cannabis prescriptions for people who might be intimidated by the idea of trying it.

Alex Nisenker (Courtesy CannaMed Clinic)

And it all comes at a reasonable cost, without any of the price gouging that Nisenker said some doctors practice, since the field is still relatively new. When he first got medical cannabis for his irritable bowel syndrome, he said his doctors were overcharging him because they knew he didn’t have other options.

“We just said, ‘can we create a model whereby it’s a patient-first mentality?’ So we’re not looking at how do we get the money out of the patient … let’s really take medical cannabis to a bona fide medical place,” he said.

Nisenker said he and his partners purposely placed CannaMed at its present location north of Toronto, as it’s an area that is somewhat liberal and has an aging population.

The CannaMed Clinic, north of Toronto. (CannaMed Clinic)

“The one constant with all these people is that they’re on one form or another of some cocktail of stuff that’s really harming them from a side effect profile perspective,” said Nisenker. The side effects of their old drugs included internal organ issues, whereas the side effect of medical cannabis is dry mouth.

Jakobs’ mother, Ida, is one such patient. Now 88, she never expected she’d use medical cannabis, but using prednisone for her arthritis was depleting her bone density. About a year ago, she tried cannabis oil and hasn’t looked back since.

“None of this stuff makes you high, that’s what people worry about. It doesn’t. But it sure helps with the pain and the inflammation,” said Ida. “I’m thrilled with it. I look at people walking around, limping, in pain, and I say, ‘ah shakes, why don’t you take the marijuana oil?’ ”