Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jul 2013
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Cathryn Atkinson


Minister Says Goal Is to Create New Commercial Industry

With medical marijuana growing laws changing in 2014, Canada's health 
minister, Leona Aglukkaq, has written about why the federal 
government wants to get out of the business of licensing growers.

The change, due to take effect in March 2014, effectively privatizes 
and corporatizes medical marijuana crop growing.

Aglukkaq said in the statement, shared to Canadian media, that:

"When the Marijuana Medical Access Program was introduced in 2001 in 
response to a court decision, the number of people authorized to use 
marijuana for medical purposes stood at less than 500. Over the years 
that number has grown to more than 30,000. As a result, costs to 
taxpayers have continued to climb as Health Canada heavily subsidizes 
the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes."

She expressed concern that those with permission to grow it at home 
"has added to public health, safety and security risks as criminal 
elements have abused the system."

"The government's goal is to treat dried marijuana as much as 
possible like other narcotics used for medical purposes under the 
MMPR (Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) by creating 
conditions for a new, commercial industry that will be responsible 
for its production and distribution. Health Canada will return to its 
traditional role as a regulator."

New security and quality control requirements will, Aglukkaq added, 
make it harder for medical marijuana to be funnelled into the illegal 
drugs trade.

Patrick Smyth of Rebagliati's Gold, the medical marijuana coffee shop 
company being set up in Whistler by Olympic gold medal-winning 
snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, believes Aglukkaq's views are a good 
summary of the government's position.

"This morning we were talking to some people and they didn't 
understand the changes. I explained that nobody has a license now and 
so everyone is starting out fresh, and we've been asked to get 
involved with a couple of people who are applying for licenses," Smyth said.

"We don't want to get in on the grow side, we don't want to get too 
early into the game if you don't get your license. We'd rather wait 
until the growers get their license then talk about how we're going 
to work together branding different strains."

Smyth said he knew of want-to-be growers who have applied and was 
interested to see how the government intends to vet applicants. Some 
current growers, he believes, will not continue.

He added that the first licenses under the new system will be granted 
in the fall, and explained that the approved growers have to raise a 
test crop of medical marijuana over the first three months of 
operation before they can grow their first commercial crop in early 2014.

"This works out well because it gives a bit of an overlap... I've 
heard anything from only 10 licensed producers in the first year to 
30. And then, the year after, maybe a total of 50," Smyth said.

"From the actual marijuana side it is possible that it could create a 
bit of a shortage. It will be really interesting to see what happens 
and how the government will deal with those currently growing. I know 
a lot of people who are growing under the current laws right now and 
they're preparing to close shop at the end of March next year and 
they are looking for new business opportunities. One guy is looking 
to sell what he learnt in a book, another guy is looking to sell soil."

As for plans for Rebagliati's Gold, Smyth said: "We are very happy 
with the direction things are moving right now, it's good."

"I'm very comfortable with this (the federal changes). Everything is 
progressing at our end and we are talking to people on the grow side."
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