While Remembrance Day marks the end of the First World War, global conflicts continue to take a toll on those who serve in the military.
Veterans often pay for their service with physical and mental wounds.Cannabis has been pivotal in helping veterans who struggle, especially with PTSD.
One of the Canadian companies with a mandate to help is Abba Medix, an online medical cannabis marketplace, which carries high-quality products provided by different LPs—including strains grown by MTL Cannabis, specifically for veterans. The company caters to veterans by making them feel comfortable, speaking their language and taking them through the whole process from start to finish.
We reached Alex Kroon, president of Canada House Clinics and Abba Medix, companies that are both part of the parent company Canada House Wellness Group.
Here is our Q&A:
Q: What is your main message this Remembrance Day?
A: We need to remember and honour those who lost their lives in service to Canada, but also the veterans who came back with injuries, pain, and mental health challenges. Many veterans and their families struggle with life after service, particularly those with PTSD.
Q: How are vets involved in working with Abba Medix?
A: Veterans are very involved with Abba Medix and Canada House. Glen Coyle, a retired corporal is our veteran advocate across Canada House and Abba Medix and keeps us focused on what is best for veterans. We have two key medical educators at our clinics who are themselves veterans, which helps comfort our veteran patients and community. Many of our clinics have lounges and veteran volunteers to help us organize safe events and a welcome place. We also are founding sponsors of PTGA (Post-Traumatic Growth Association), a not-for-profit that puts on veteran events and programs helping to connect community. Finally, we frequently survey our veteran patients and get their input on what is important to them. Abba has benefited from all the veteran interactions since 2013 at Canada House.
Q: How do you go about cultivating strains that are particularly geared for the needs of veterans?
A: We worked with InPlanta (a genetics firm), veterans and our clinics years ago to breed Veteran Kush and Vet Star Day that work well to provide relief for mental health and pain. Beyond unique cultivars, our clinics were founded by veterans, and we have grown since 2013 to service over 3,500 veterans. Abba benefits from direct feedback and expertise from veterans but also leverages Canada House experts who serve on the front line of patient care. This approach and collective effort has enabled Abba to curate a medical cannabis menu across dried flower, oils, vapes and edibles that we know appeals to and helps veterans.
Q: Why is helping veterans important for Canada House?
A: It is part of our DNA with Canada House being founded by veterans. Our clinic staff see first-hand how hard many veterans have it, but also see how they can improve. We have many staff who are veterans or are connected through spouses or families to the military, and most of our clinics are located close to bases. It's our mission to help renew lives. It’s our history and it's our passion. With some veterans having coverage—and often with more serious conditions—they purchase more medical cannabis than typical patients, so that keeps us busy.
Q: How is it different working with vets than with other types of medical patients?
A: While it's great that some veterans have coverage, there is a whole other process they must go through and we have to bill for reimbursement on their behalf. A veteran with severe pain from a long combat career plus PTSD will need much more support and likely a higher dose of medical cannabis. We train our clinic staff in mental health first aid so they are ready if a suicidal veteran comes to the clinic. It's very rewarding to help veterans but it's also more challenging. Given that they often need rapid onset to deal with pain and mental health triggers, veterans consume more dried flower/vapes than the average medical patient.
Q: What are some of the programs available on the medical side that are there to help veterans?
A: Veterans Affairs has many programs but often veterans are not aware of what they are eligible for, or how to access those benefits. It's important veterans do therapy and other programs in conjunction with medical cannabis and we help direct them to mental health professionals with experience in working with veterans. We are blessed that Canada is the only country that covers medical cannabis for some veterans. We also make one of our veteran medical educators available to help veterans figure out what they are eligible for and co-ordinate the paperwork. We've helped Veterans just in the last 18 months gain over $2 million in services and benefits that they were not accessing.
Q: Is there anything you would change about the regulations??
A: In terms of changing the regulations, overall, there should not be excise taxes on medical. Second, even if there are lower limits for additional medical reasons for cannabis coverage, there should be more veterans with coverage. Third, accessing medical cannabis is harder than other veteran benefits, particularly those with worse conditions needing extra coverage. Finally, while aspects of the legal market are excellent like testing, overall, there is still too much red tape and unnecessary limitations or demands which makes it hard for LPs to best serve patients and grow their business.
Abba Medix’s new bilingual app and a patient portal are expected to launch in November. Learn more at its website (abbamedix.com).
David Wylie is publisher of the oz. magazine. Look for the next issue in local legal cannabis retail stores in December. Reach him by email at [email protected] or on Instagram @okanaganz.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.