Pubdate: Fri, 25 Sep 2009
Source: Simcoe Reformer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Sun Media
Author: Daniel Pearce
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


 From the outside, the farm looks like any other in the tobacco belt.

The side windows on the old-style wooden kilns are open. This year's 
crop is visible, hanging upside down and turning yellow.

The only clue that something is amiss is the greenhouse, its contents 
hidden by plastic sheets put up on the inside.

A man wearing a ball cap emerges from the back door carrying a large 
stick at his side and holds back a pit bull on a chain.

He is guarding a $1 million crop that has been growing behind the 
plastic for weeks: marijuana.

What's happening inside is not illegal; the grower, a Delhi man who 
rents the greenhouse from the farmer, is licensed by Health Canada to 
supply the plant's byproducts to the sick, who in turn must be signed 
on by their doctor.

"We get bigger and bigger every week," says Richard West, who boasts 
he's been growing pot since age 11 and insists he's one of the 
world's foremost growers. "The outcry for this is insane."

West supplies marijuana to people with a wide variety of ailments, 
such as arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Tourette Syndrome.

The problem, he says, is that the chronically ill suffer debilitating 
side-effects from years of taking traditional drugs such as steroids. 
The cure becomes as bad as the disease.

Marijuana eases their pain, increases their appetite or stops their 
muscle spasms without the side-effects. West, 48, says he gives the 
sick their lives back again.

More and more people are turning to him for help, he says, and he 
intends to expand his operation in Norfolk -- also offering a 
lifeline to desperate farmers who face losing their status as a legal 
farm if they can't find a crop to replace tobacco.

The problem is that earlier this summer he ran afoul of the law. 
About a month ago, police showed up to the greenhouse he rents in the 
west end of Norfolk County with a search warrant and raided the premises.

Norfolk OPP Const. Mark Foster says West's licence allows him to grow 
only a certain number of plants. Police, says Foster, left with some 
of his plants but have yet to lay any charges.

"It's still up for discussion," says Foster. "Charges are still pending."

West counters that he is allowed to grow over his quota to take 
account for some plants that won't flower and never got the chance to 
do a "cull" before police showed up.

In the meantime, he says, the raid, which saw police cars parked in 
front of the farm for four or five hours, has brought his operation 
to the public's attention and made his life hell: everybody now knows 
what he's doing in the greenhouse and attempts to steal from him have gone up.

West says he has had to step up security at his greenhouse and has 
had violent clashes with people sneaking up on his operation in the dark.

"The best way to fight this is send some home dog-bitten and beaten 
up," says West, who sleeps inside the greenhouse with his guard and 
two dogs, the pit bull and a Doberman.

Since the raid, he says he has added a $15,000 alarm system while his 
dogs have been let loose on intruders 11 times.

He points to notches on the large stick his guard carries and says 
each one represents a broken bone given in a confrontation with a trespasser.

West, a father and grandfather, acknowledges he has been convicted 
eight times on drug charges, but that was a long time ago, he says, 
and he has changed.

What he's interested in now, he says, is using his knowledge to help 
people and to potentially create a local industry.

West is one of 3,245 people in Canada licensed to produce medical 
marijuana. They supply 4,475 sick people who are authorized to 
possess dried marijuana.

His expansion plans include, he says, the building of a research 
centre outside Walsingham that will house two scientists plus other staff.

The idea is to come up with better ways to ingest the plant.

Marijuana can be eaten, put into cookies or brownies, put in pill 
form or drops, or used as strips you put on the tongue.

"We recommend you not smoke it," says West, who suffers from 
arthritis and also uses marijuana for medical purposes. "You can make 
it into butter and cook with it. That's what we recommend."
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