Pubdate: Fri, 29 Aug 2008
Source: Community Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Osprey Media
Author: Mark Hoult
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Although fewer than 3,000 Canadians are licensed to use medical 
marijuana, it's estimated that between 400,000 and one million people 
in the country use cannabis as medication. The following is the first 
article in a series about the use of marijuana to treat medical conditions.

Trent Hills - Wendal Grant pulls a slim white tube of rolled paper 
out of a silver case, puts it in his mouth and applies the flame of a 
lighter to its tip, drawing in and expelling a cloud of smoke. It 
doesn't take long for the pungent, but not unpleasant smell of 
marijuana to fill the room.

A friend, who goes by the name of Grama-D, joins Grant, lighting her 
own joint and inhaling smoke containing what are, to both of them, 
health-enhancing cannabinoids, chemical compounds that give the plant 
not only its psychoactive properties but its capacity to relieve 
pain, reduce nausea and treat the symptoms of diseases ranging from 
Crohn's Disease to Multiple Sclerosis.

Grant - not his real name - and Grama-D, are among the 2,500 
Canadians who are licensed by Health Canada to possess and consume 
marijuana for medical purposes. The Trent Hills residents each smoke 
up to five grams of marijuana - about 10 joints - each day to relieve 
the symptoms of their medical conditions. Grant has Crohn's, an 
inflammatory bowel disease, and Grama-D has HepatitisC. Both are 
considered ill enough to qualify for the medical marijuana exemption 
under the federal government's medical marijuana program.

Five years ago, Grant was a supervisor at a local company and an 
active member of the community. Then he was diagnosed with Crohn's 
and spent two weeks in the hospital, plunging from his normal weight 
of 185 pounds down to 119.

Pumped full of morphine in the hospital, he was sent home with a 
prescription for morphine, the powerful and addictive pain-killing 
drug. Then he discovered that smoking cannabis relieved the 
inflammation and controlled the pain of his Crohn's Disease. The 
discovery changed his life. Returning the unused morphine pills to 
the pharmacy, he became an active promoter of the positive benefits 
of a plant he feels has been unfairly demonized by society.

It is this activism which gave him the courage to come forward and 
talk about a controversial drug that is still regarded with distrust 
- - if not horror - by people who group it together with other illicit 
substances such as cocaine and heroin. Grant said he decided to speak 
to the local media after seeing yet another story about police 
raiding local marijuana grow operations. If police disposing of large 
quantities of marijuana from illegal grow operations is the only 
image in the public consciousness, then attitudes won't change, he 
said during an interview with The CommunityPress in his Trent Hills home.

"There is another side to the story that never gets told and that 
never gets the publicity or the headlines that the negative side, no 
matter what, gets. There are many people like myself that believe 
people should learn the truth, instead of being told the same 
reported story over and over," Grant stated.

Although fewer than 3,000 Canadians are licensed to use medical 
marijuana, it's estimated that between 400,000 and one million people 
in the country use cannabis as medication, according to Grant.

And according to a United Nations report close to 17 per cent of 
Canadians use or have used marijuana. "And that's only the people who 
admit to it," Grant said, stressing that the use of cannabis is more 
widespread than most people imagine. But the stigma remains, and 
affects even those who are given permission to legally use the drug.

The Health Canada application to use marijuana for medical purposes 
is more than 20 pages long and contains a separate application to 
grow the plants. Licensed users who don't grow their own plants can 
purchase dried, prepared marijuana from the federal government, which 
has its own grow operation in Manitoba. The alternative is to 
designate another user to grow your supply, said Grant, who has a 
small grow operation in his basement to provide medical marijuana for 
himself and Grama-D.

In one corner of Grant's low-ceilinged basement is his grow 
operation, which includes a section containing the natural 
fertilizers, including kelp, bone meal, egg shells and worm castings, 
needed to grow healthy plants. "Everything is grown organically," 
Grant said, noting that his small grow-op is safe and clean. He uses 
sodium lights and has a ventilation system that circulates air from 
the outside. The marijuana is grown using the same methods and 
equipment that would be used to grow tomatoes, he said.

Grant has painstakingly acquired a wealth of information about 
growing and using medical marijuana. He even writes articles for the 
magazine "Treating Yourself," the only mass circulation publication 
dedicated to medical marijuana. Wendal Grant is the pseudonym he uses 
in the magazine.

Grant is also involved with a group called Medical Marijuana 
Awareness. As a member he helps people go through the medical 
marijuana application process and travels to venues such as the 
Toronto Home Show to distribute information about the use of 
marijuana as medicine. The process of educating people about the 
benefits of the plant must be taken "one step at a time," Grant said. 
"We are trying to change people's perceptions by getting out there 
and telling the truth."
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