Caroline MacCallum
Credit: Albert Law

To mark the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, we check in with some of the key players in the B.C. cannabis world. From pot growers to government officials to medical professionals, meet the people helping move the industry forward and keep British Columbians safe. Todays subject is Caroline MacCallum, medical director of Greenleaf Medical Clinic

A strong advocate of cannabis for medical treatment, Caroline MacCallum says her patients brought the idea to her. MacCallum grew up in Newfoundland, where she earned a pharmacy degree and began medical studies. After graduating from internal medicine at UBC in 2013, she worked at several clinics. There she met people with a range of health problems who had turned to cannabis because other treatments didn’t work.

MacCallum was skeptical of the lack of scientific evidence. “But patients were telling me that it was working,” she says. Deciding to help people access safe medical cannabis, MacCallum saw how powerful it was: “People who might have come to me with 10 problems, it was helping a lot of the conditions, a lot of the symptoms, and we were able to whittle down their prescription list.”

Today, she is medical director of the Greenleaf Medical Clinic in Langley, where she has seen some 3,000 patients. Canada’s first medical cannabis clinic, Greenleaf opened in 2011. It charges patients a fee and uses only Health Canada–approved cannabis to treat illnesses ranging from chronic pain and cancer symptoms to migraine and addiction.

“We weigh the risks and the benefits, and we educate, and we monitor for drug interactions,” says MacCallum, who is also a clinical instructor with UBC’s department of medicine, an adjunct professor with the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences and an associate member of the palliative care division. She recently won ethics approval from the university to turn Greenleaf into a patient registry. With consent, she can now explore what cannabis varieties work for particular diseases, she says.

Among other research efforts, MacCallum is working with several groups that aim to launch randomized clinical trials studying cannabis’s effect on neurological and psychiatric conditions such as seizures and traumatic brain injury. This year, she co-authored what she calls the first paper of its kind, for the European Journal of Internal Medicine, on medical cannabis administration and dosing.

Check out the November issue of BCBusiness for more profiles of B.C.s pot players