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St. Albert-based medical cannabis clinic wants to establish peer-support group in Cold Lake area

Two professionals in the medicinal cannabis field are reaching out the Cold Lake community to create a peer-support group for veterans and civilians who are struggling with physical or mental health issues.

Bryce Hooper, cannabis educator, and Katie Shepherd, clinical manager, are from The Herb Clinic based in St. Albert – a medical cannabis clinic.

They spoke in Cold Lake last night to help those suffering from the lack of health resources in the area and share their knowledge of how cannabis can be used for symptom relief.

“From our understanding, I’ve got almost 20 years in health care myself, there seems to be a little bit of a gap out here in the access to basics,” said clinical manager, Katie Shepherd.

“Psychology seems to be an issue out here, it’s not going to take you three weeks to see a practitioner…it was flabbergasting to hear with almost 21,000 people in your immediate area that such a big portion of your health care is being missed.

“Like I say, we’re a cannabis clinic, but we’re much greater than that and we’re hoping to bring a peer-support group out here for veterans,” said Shepherd.

The Herb Clinic does a similar peer-support group/education night once a month in St. Albert where health care practitioners, pharmacists, community groups, licensed producers, and cannabis educators talk with the public.

Hooper says he intends to return in June with another group event and hopes to establish more regular sessions, with varying speakers and activities.

The group will be open for everybody at zero cost, although it will be veterans focused.

“It’s bringing people together who may be stuck in their house regardless, and then having those access points where you’re gonna have a guest speaker who might be a psychologist or psychiatrist or even a pharmacist,” said Hooper.

Hooper’s own history as a veteran led him to his position as a cannabis educator after having chronic pain from over a decade in the military.

“With the conventional medicines that the military prescribed, I was your atypical that released – that statistic where you’re two mistakes away from homelessness, divorce, etc, as you release a soldier. With multiple deployments, and mental health and chronic pain issues, I became that statistic. I ended up living in my truck, working as a bouncer and getting involved in the wrong type of lifestyle,” said Hooper.

Hooper got help through veterans affairs and from there starting accessing medical cannabis in Calgary. He partnered with a couple friends and eventually brought a clinic to Edmonton that he says helped nearly 3000 veterans receive medical cannabis.

“When I was first trying to use medicinal cannabis, there was never any of this stuff around. You were just given a book and a golden handshake and away you go, here’s your benefits,” said Hooper.

They say their clinic is a cannabis-prescribing, education-focused clinic.

The Herb Clinic is set to expand to a wellness centre, with another facility that focuses on pain in Redwater.