With some studies suggesting that one in five Canadians suffer from chronic pain, finding treatment can be difficult. More and more people with cancer, arthritis, and mobility disorders are turning to medical cannabis for symptom relief, but getting a prescription isn’t always easy.

This is where the non-profit organization GreenMed Network can help, by offering free consultations and connecting patients with prescribers. Established last year, the founders didn’t think that patients should have to pay for medical marijuana assessments, which in some cases costs hundreds of dollars for a single assessment. “Access and cost shouldn’t be a barrier to treatment,” says Andrea Williams, manager and patient coordinator for GreenMed. “I’ve spoken to many people who suffer with chronic pain, and who have limited financial means, or live in rural areas, and can’t easily get to a clinic.”

Having endured the effects of osteoarthritis for much of her life, Williams knows first hand how debilitating chronic pain is. She discovered that medical marijuana relieved the pain, so instead of taking opioids are other anti-inflammatory medications, she now has another option.

With GreenMed, patients log in to a confidential and secure website, which is currently only available to Ontario residents. They choose an appointment time for a 30-minute telephone assessment with a patient coordinator. After reviewing the patient’s medical history, the next step is a video consultation with a nurse practitioner, who will determine if a prescription for medical cannabis is needed. This entire process can take just a couple of days, which is much better than the months some patients are waiting to get a prescription from a clinic.

Williams says increasing the awareness of medical marijuana with physicians is important, because there is still a stigma around this treatment. “It’s a shame because people could be benefitting through ease of access,” she says. “By relieving people of their chronic pain, they can be more active, and improve their quality of life.”