NORTH CANTON — Soothing instrumental music and essential oil diffusers fill the AdvoCare Clinic lobby.

The recently opened clinic at 157 Wilbur Drive NE provides holistic care that promotes mindfulness and a healthy diet but also incorporates cannabis.

“It’s not the only reason we exist,” founder Steve Davis said. “Our whole reason is the whole patient.”

Davis, a retired emergency physician formerly with the Green Compassion Network, said AdvoCare Clinic aims to be the “premiere center of excellence and holistic healing and medicinal cannabis.” He is certified to recommend medical cannabis and also established a clinic for “snow birds” in Fort Myers, Florida.

The North Canton location has four rooms for consultation, one of which contains the Well-N-Clear shop. On display are a variety of vaporizers and plant grinders for sale.

The interior is decorated without the color green or cannabis leaves. A blue-gray color scheme and staff who wear dark blue scrubs replicate a traditional medical environment.

“We’re really trying to get away from the tropes and the things that have induced the stigma and really try to refocus patients’ attention to the medical benefits of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol),” CEO Jessica Archer said.

Archer, who also is a medical cannabis patient, said there’s still some “reticence to change.” It’s something AdvoCare Clinic is trying to counter with education and outreach efforts, which include informational kiosks at the Belden Village Mall in Jackson Township and New Towne Mall in New Philadelphia.

Since opening in March, the clinic has attracted about 100 patients. Davis said some want to register as a patient or caregiver with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program and others schedule follow-up visits after becoming unhappy with their original physician.

“Our understanding is, bar none, the best in the area,” Davis said.

Each consultation usually involves a summary of how the body’s endocannabinoid system responds to cannabis and how to find the optimal dose, avoiding excessive amounts that might cause negative side effects.

Darion Cole, a senior trusted care advocate at the clinic, drew a bell curve on a dry erase board during a presentation to Renee Cortez, a health and wellness business owner. Cortez said she successfully self medicated in the past and sought a state medical card to treat her autoimmune disease and chronic pain.

“I have found that cannabis has been the medicine that alleviates the pain. I don’t take any other medication at all,” she said, excluding over-the-counter aspirin.

Cortez said Cole’s presentation was new to her but the content was familiar. Cole also suggested a breathing technique to use when vaping.

“Really, with cannabis, less is more,” she told Cortez.

Jason CoCo, of Canton Township, came to AdvoCare Clinic after struggling to find an area physician willing to recommend cannabis. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and on disability, CoCo said he had been saving money for a state medical card.

The annual state registration fee is $50 for patients and $25 for caregivers. Patients who qualify for indigent or veteran status can receive a 50% discount.

The AdvoCare Clinic charges $249 for a standard appointment and $69 for a follow-up visit. Veterans or people who meet Ohio’s indigent status qualification pay $199 for an appointment and $49 for a follow up.

With limited tinctures and plant material available, cannabis retail prices remain high. The latest state sales figures showed plant material priced about $464 an ounce.

CoCo said he’d like medical insurance to cover cannabis the same as prescription opioids, which he grew wary of two years ago. But having smoked cannabis, a method not legal under Ohio’s medical program, CoCo knew the plant would be beneficial.

“I’ve known for a long time that it’s taken the pain away,” he said.

Davis, who is certified to prescribe medication to treat opioid addiction, said anecdotal evidence suggests cannabis can be an effective alternative to opioids and remove the risk of abuse.

“We think that it’s a huge part of the answer to the opiate crisis,” he said.

However, a state committee has opposed adding opioid use disorder to the qualifying conditions for cannabis treatment, according to recent media reports. The State Medical Board of Ohio will make the final decision on five conditions in July.

 

Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323 or kelly.byer@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @kbyerREP