The business of medical cannabis is growing – fast – and has many facets. One of these is patient and physician education about the science and the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis. Toronto-based GrowWise Health provides this service. In 2017 Denise Ropp partnered with GrowWise Health to bring medical cannabis education to the Comox Valley and Vancouver Island.
LIFT: What is the business of GrowWise Health?
Denise: Medical cannabis is a new and exciting area, and there are a lot of unknowns, and lots of new research. Our role is to provide education and support – for both patients seeking help, and physicians who want to learn more.
Your first step, when you visit our centre, is to meet with a physician who actually listens to you about what you are trying to accomplish with regards to your health. GrowWise Nurse Educators then provide education about medicinal cannabis: licensed producers, safety, dosing, strains, compounds – that kind of thing. After that, we’re here to give you ongoing support to reach your own, personalized goals.
LIFT: What makes your business “special” or different from what others are doing with regard to medical cannabis?
Denise: Let me be clear, because there is often confusion around this, we are NOT a medical cannabis dispensary. Our business is supporting patients in their healing journey, without charging extra fees.
GrowWise started about three years ago. The founders recognized that more and more physicians were authorizing medical cannabis, but patients were being left on their own to fulfill their prescription. With an ordinary script, a patient would be able to walk into a pharmacy and ask for help – the pharmacist will tell you what time of day to take your medication, what side effects to be aware, and will fulfill the prescription for you. That doesn’t exist for cannabis patients.
So GrowWise partnered with a half dozen Licensed Producers – companies authorized by Health Canada to legally producer cannabis for medical purposes – to help connect patients with the support they need to be successful with their treatment. GrowWise nurses are embedded in clinics where there are physicians authorizing cannabis – they work in pain clinics, fibromyalgia centres, family practices, and cannabis clinics like White Cedar here in the Comox Valley. The physicians bill MSP like any other clinic, and the education service is provided free-of-charge to patients.
LIFT: Who are the people that will most benefit from what GrowWise Health is offering?
Denise: Most of our patients are in their 50s and 60s. Active adults highly motivated to improve their health. But really, our target market is anyone who seeking an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical solutions. And so we have patients of all ages, from all walks of life.
LIFT: What inspired you to start the Comox Valley office?
Denise: I saw an opportunity to provide access to a natural health solution to the community. There are a lot of people for whom traditional pharmaceuticals have failed. This is a choice in healthcare, an alternative to traditional solutions. I must say, this is not about getting “high.” Most of our patients have not been recreational cannabis users. Many are unfamiliar with any type of cannabis. They’re people looking for a solution to health issues, a solution that’s eluded them in the traditional healthcare system to date.
We have a lot of patients that have been curious about this medication. There are also those who have tried using medicinal cannabis and are not aware of finer details about strains or components, or even how to properly dose themselves. They need proper education and support. I saw this opportunity as a way to support people on their healing journey.
LIFT: What / who have been the biggest factors in the growth/ success of your business?
Denise: Number one is our patients! GrowWise has worked with over 6000 patients across Canada to date. Hearing their success stories is incredibly motivating for us as a company, as well as for the greater community. These patients go on to tell their family and friends about their success, they share their story with their family physician, their colleagues, and so on, and the message spreads from there.
Another key piece that has been incredibly helpful is the expansion in research. It feels like every day there is a new study released about how cannabis might help – about how it is displacing opioid prescriptions, or how it is improving quality of life for our veterans. We have so much anecdotal evidence that points to cannabis be a valuable treatment options, but in order for healthcare practitioners to fully embrace cannabis, rigorous, academic research is needed.
Finally, the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis for adult-use this summer has really helped to break down the stigma around cannabis for medical patients. All of a sudden, cannabis is everywhere. It’s on every newspaper cover, on the radio, in magazines – it has become far less taboo, and that has encouraged patients to take the first step and talk to their doctor about it.
LIFT: If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business on Vancouver Island / in the Comox Valley today, what would it be?
Denise: Get out and network!
For more information about GrowWise Health in the Comox Valley:
Facebook Messenger: https://www.facebook.com/Comox.3322
GrowWise Health in the Comox Valley is a LIFT member business (aka LIFT VIP). If you are a LIFT member ask Denise and the team at GrowWise Health about the 10% discount on hemp-based products like Bully Bites (doggie snacks), Canna-9, lip balm, body cream, and facial serum.
For more information about LIFT and how we help grow Vancouver Island businesses, please see http://LIFTStartups.ca or call Founder & CEO Hans Peter Meyer (HPM) at 250-792-1408.