Pubdate: Thu, 18 Oct 2012
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Alison Taylor


Corridor Grow Op Opens for "Limited Number" of Medical Marijuana Patients

The numbers of medical marijuana growers and users are fast on the 
rise and one local grower is banking on this booming business for his B.C. bud.

Statistics just released to Pique by Health Canada suggest that more 
medicinal marijuana growers are getting ready for legislative changes 
to the industry in the next two years.

One Sea to Sky grower has convinced others of the potential of pot.

Together with his investors, he has set up a small grow op facility 
in the Sea to Sky corridor, producing a couple of pounds of legal 
medical marijuana per cycle - about every two months - for a "limited 
number of patients" as allowed by Health Canada.

But there's no money in that. And so, they are biding their time, 
banking on the signals from the federal government that big changes 
to the medical marijuana industry are in the pipeline - ones that 
will see them capitalize on this early groundwork as Canada moves 
towards a system of bigger, more regulated, commercial growers of the 
medicinal plant.

"I figured that if I'm going to be competitive when that comes around 
then we need to start developing facilities now that are going to 
meet what I anticipate are going to be the requirements for 
commercial grow facilities, and also start developing a variety of 
strains because when the market opens up to all these medical 
patients... it's going to be a competitive market," said the local grower.

"You're going to be competing with other guys who are really good at 
growing pot and have a variety of strains to offer and patients are 
going to be selective about where those come from. So I figure if I 
don't have my ducks in a row now then when that change comes about, 
it'll be too late."

Pique has agreed to conceal the grower's identity and the location of 
his facility for security reasons.

"(The location) is appropriately chosen to take into consideration 
things about safety and security and the wellbeing of the community," 
he said. "That sounds like bullshit but it's true. I don't want it to 
burn down. I don't want anybody to be bothered by it. I want to 
ensure I'm running a safe and secure facility."

It is, he said, up to code, meeting fire, building and electrical requirements.

The facility is "modular" - built to a certain size right now with 
more space to expand in the future. The medical marijuana licenses 
are tucked into a folder on the wall, ready proof that this is a 
legitimate business.

But as legitimate as it is, the business of medical marijuana is 
still an underground one.

"Right now everyone operates under the radar," he said. "The whole 
entire community of medical growers operates on the hush-hush."

And yet there are thousands across the country. Health Canada 
provided the most up to date statistics, valid as of Oct. 12, 2012.

Nationally, 26,222 are authorized to possess medical marijuana, while 
16,549 have a licence to grow and a further 3,199 are designated to 
grow for others, for a combined total of 19,748 growers.

That's a marked increase in just three years. On June 8, 2010, for 
example, there were just 4,884 authorized to possess, 3,576 in total 
allowed to grow. That represents an increase of more than 500 per 
cent in growers.

More than 2,200 Canadians commented on the first phase of 
consultation on the legislative changes last summer, not including 
separate meetings with other organizations such as police and health 

The proposed regulations will move the industry away from the 
thousands of smaller, individual grow operations to bigger commercial 
grows, like the one hoping to flourish in the Sea to Sky.

"These improvements are intended to reduce the risk of abuse and 
keep... communities safe while significantly improving the way 
program participants access marijuana for medical purposes," said 
Health Canada's spokesperson Stephane Shank, who could not comment 
specifically on the spike in medicinal growers and users.

"So this, in other words, after hearing from law enforcement as well 
particularly where there were concerns around illegal activity or 
exploiting of the program through criminal measures... this is in 
turn what the department has proposed in making improvements to the 
program to avoid all of these issues going forward."

The draft regulations are set to be released next month in the Canada Gazette.

Meanwhile, Health Canada continues to be guided by the Marihuana 
Medical Access Regulations, which "allow access to marijuana to 
people who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses."

It's not to be confused with the other movement afoot in B.C. to 
decriminalize marijuana.

Just last month the Union of British Columbian Municipalities passed 
a resolution in support of decriminalization. Sea to Sky politicians 
were also in support.

This type of marijuana use, however, is different. It's specifically 
for the 26,000 people with permits to possess it in Canada.

B.C. has the highest number of permits to possess and grow - 11,486 
authorized to possess (almost 43 per cent of Canada) and a combined 
personal and designated 9,874 to grow - 50 per cent of Canada.

It's for people suffering with HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis. 
Most of this local grower's patients are from Vancouver.

And then there's a small group of secondary patients suffering from 
arthritis. He provides relief through his non-physchoactive salves 
and lotions, made from a particular strain of the marijuana plant, 
one with more CBD or cannabidiol.

"It's got astounding anti-inflammatory properties," he said.

One of his local patients, who Pique has also agreed not to name, can 
attest to that. She's been living with the pain of osteoarthritis in 
her hands for more than a decade. Nothing, until now, has worked; 
shots, creams, anything the doctors order.

Three months ago she started using this salve, grown and produced 
locally, with marijuana heavy in cannabidiol.

"This does relieve it amazingly," she said. "I put it on before I go 
to bed and I don't wake up in the night with pain in my hands."

It's one of the reasons why this particular 35-year-old local grower 
has stayed in the business of marijuana despite his Masters in Philosophy.

"I started thinking that there was not just a large market for this 
but that I was good at it and there was an opportunity for me to get 
involved in what should be a large emerging industry," he said. "It's 
not a very compassionate story, is it?"

But there is an element of compassion to the story. He sees the pain 
and suffering first hand. He hears the stories of the damage caused 
by stronger opiates like OxyContin. He has seen his medical marijuana 
improve the quality of his customers' lives.

"If I don't get that medicine out the door to these people on time, 
they lose their minds," he said.

"I saw an opportunity for me to be a lot better than a lot of 
dirtbags that are in this industry - the gangsters, the criminals, 
the people who shouldn't be in this industry."

It's that black market, including public health and safety risks, 
which has in part spurred on the federal government to take a look at 
reforming the system.

"The core of the redesigned Program would be a new, simplified 
process in which Health Canada no longer receives applications from 
program participants," states Health Canada's website. "A new supply 
and distribution system for dried marihuana (sic) that relies on 
licensed commercial producers would be established. These licensed 
commercial producers, who would be inspected and audited by Health 
Canada so as to ensure that they comply with all applicable 
regulatory requirements, would be able to cultivate any strain(s) of 
marihuana (sic) they choose. Finally, the production of marihuana 
(sic) for medical purposes by individuals in homes and communities 
would be phased out."

Commercial producers would have to comply with requirements for 
things like product quality, personnel, recordkeeping, safety and 
security, disposal and reporting, as set out in the new regulations.

"Why don't we work toward a model that gets rid of the criminal 
element, takes out the issues of safety and security around the 
actual medicine itself? I'm not looking to be a marijuana crusader," he said.

At the same time, he is one of the converted. "It is a great 
alternative drug and a natural treatment for all kinds of people," he 
said. "People should have the right to make a safe and informed 
decision about the type of medicine they want to use."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom