Pubdate: Sat, 28 Dec 2013
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013, Barrie Examiner
Author: Whitney Neilson


'This an Unconventional, but Real Business'

CLEARVIEW TWP. - You could easily drive past The Peace Naturals 
Project in Clearview Township, west of Barrie, and never know it's 
home to hundreds of marijuana plants.

Mark Gobuty founded The Peace Naturals Projects to provide 
"compassionate cannabis" after seeing the effects on his father's health.

But step on the property and you're greeted by security cameras and 
barbed wire fences. To go inside you'll have to exchange your shoes 
for Crocs, and don a hairnet, hard hat and lab coat. Only then can 
you enter the medical marijuana facility.

The Peace Naturals Project is one of only three licensed medical 
cannabis companies in Canada. Health Canada launched the Marijuana 
for Medical Purposes Regulations ( MMPR) in June, making it possible 
for companies to produce and distribute marijuana under strict guidelines.

Peace Naturals Project founder and CEO Mark Gobuty created the 
project in 2010 after watching his parents suffer through illnesses 
on prescription painkillers.

His mother had elective surgery on her shoulder and contracted TTP, a 
debilitating fatal blood disease. She also has arthritis and numerous 
heart issues. His father has cancer, arthritis, and symptoms of 
Crohns disease. He turned to alcohol to help numb the pain, which 
only made the arthritis worse.

"My brothers and I are sitting around their place, taking a break 
from the hospital, opened up the medicine cabinet and it was really 
gobsmacking," said Gobuty. "My parents were self-medicating. You 
know, this doctor, that doctor, trying to find what's right for them."

Gobuty had friends who were growing cannabis for compassionate 
purposes, and convinced his parents to try it. His mother was scared 
to go off her meds and never fully embraced medical marijuana. But 
his father was intrigued and gave great feedback.

"He would wake in the morning, wait half an hour, have his coffee, 
have a cannabis cigarette, and he could honestly type within five 
minutes," said Gobuty. "We got to the point where he really didn't 
want to drink anymore. It really changed his behaviour."

Gobuty said he's focused on helping sick people, especially the 
elderly. He plans to go to nursing homes with a company which has 
developed a vaporizer. He said the most rewarding part so far has 
been setting up the call centre and employing people from the community.

"We've made a real concerted effort to help sick people," said Gobuty.

"There's a process to getting your medical document, to getting ( it) 
sent in, to getting it validated, to helping all these new clients 
understand cannabis, what might be right for them, what might not be 
right for them." When clients receive their shipment, they're called 
within 12 hours. Then there's a call seven days later to find out how 
it was. They're called again 21 days later to see if there are any 
changes and find out the effects of the product. He said they're 
gathering this information to see if there are any correlations.

They received 4,752 phone calls between Oct. 31 and Nov. 26 from 
people looking for information about the new program, including 
signing up for it or transferring their licence under the old program 
to the new one.

"That's a lot of people who are sick, a lot of people who want 
information," said Gobuty. "We're not sitting around getting high all 
day just waiting for orders."

He said they will take this information to doctors and researchers in 
Canada and say, "this is very consistent over 80 people, this amount 
of time, this variety that we're producing consistently, we think 
we're close to standardization."

He said it's unique because the products being provided aren't 
standardized, and there hasn't been a broad range of people to poll before.

"We can tell you exactly what the active ingredients are, whether it 
be CBD, whether it be THC, which have different effects, anti- 
psychotic and psychotic, psychoactive effects and anti-inflammatory, 
muscle relaxing versus stimulating," said Gobuty.

Gobuty travelled to Israel to see how cannabis was being used as 
medicine after reading an article about a strain of cannabis that 
doesn't get you high.

"I was so amazed at what they had accomplished," said Gobuty. "What 
they had done was the most compassionate application of any medicine 
I've ever seen."

The nursing homes he visited were silent, nobody was screaming. Go 
into the lunch room and you'd hear people eating. As someone who 
previously worked in the health food business Gobuty said when you're 
satiated you don't do other things. He said his grandfather used to 
sit for hours, just rubbing his hand and pushing back his thumb.

Gobuty was inspired by a man at the nursing home and wished he could 
have done the same for his grandfather.

"This man was sitting in a chair, hands clenched, with a bib because 
he was almost catatonic," said Gobuty. "A gentleman who was the 
founder of Tikun Olam, an Israeli Cannabis producer, has this salve, 
and he goes ' this is pomegranate, and aloe, and cannabis.' He's 
rubbing it on the man's hand, pinching his ears. The man takes a 
bong, blows into the man's face, does it again, does it a third time."

Gobuty said they helped him sit up while patting him on the back, and 
what came out of his mouth was horrendous.

"Cannabis is an expectorant, it relieves what's happening in your 
lungs, and then this man starts to breathe," said Gobuty. "Honestly I 
couldn't breathe. I saw what I should have done for my grandfather."

The Peace Naturals Project's medical marijuana is sold for $ 6 a 
gram, which he said is about half what the compassion clubs charge. 
People on disability pay $ 3 a gram.

"You don't make money doing that, but you help people."

They have 600 registered clients and another 1,000 registered for 
when they expand. He said they have lots of inventory now, but like 
any type of farming there can be crop failure. He doesn't want to 
take on more clients until they have the equivalent of a couple 
months of inventory.

"We're being very cautious and making sure we have what people need 
and we need to grow more to be able to help more people."

Metro in the Whitby area and CaniMed in Saskatchewan are the only 
other two Health Canada licensed producers.

Gobuty said he's received positive reception from local municipal 
leaders, law enforcement, and fire departments, but it didn't happen 
by accident.

"It was ' hi, let me tell you a story'. And literally walked into the 
OPP with my mom, my dad, and my licences and said, ' here's what I'm 
going to do'."

He said going full disclosure has helped reduce the assumption he's a 
drug dealer.

"I got a call from ( Wasaga Beach Mayor Cal Patterson) saying 'nice 
to meet you. Heard what you're up to and I just wanted you to know 
that I support you. Bring jobs back to Wasaga Beach'."

Patterson introduced him to Clearview's Mayor Ken Ferguson - but the 
township's mayor didn't exactly welcome Gobuty's proposal with open arms.

But Ferguson's position has changed, noted Gobuty, and has gone from 
"who are you, what are you doing and this isn't going to happen on my 
watch," to unbelievable support.

"We weren't made to feel bad," said Gobuty. "There's a validation by 
our community and it's meaningful and will be one of the big 
contributing factors employing over 100 people."

He employs 29 people now. The facility will expand by about 60,000 
square feet as time, weather, and money permit.

"We don't have fungus, we don't have any mold, we don't have any 
bacteria, and that's a real testament to great production," said 
Gobuty. "Now do that in massive scale. It's a very big investment."

They got their licence in October but he didn't see production 
happening in a way he was comfortable with to invest more money into 
expanding, but now they're ready.

Darryl Hudson, chief research and quality assurance officer, joined 
the team in May and has a Phd in molecular biology and genetics.

"Dr. Hudson and Kenneth Langford [ chief innovation officer and co- 
founder] are an extraordinary agronomy team," said Gobuty. "That's 
what it takes, it takes farmers to grow food, grow medicine."

Once the plants have reached maturity they're dried out to a certain 
point, vacuum-sealed, tested for quality control, packaged and 
shipped off. One room is dedicated to growing genetic variations of the plant.

"Almost everything in here is a different variety," said Hudson. 
"Obviously we have to grow them out and test them in the end to see 
how different they really are, but there's a lot of molecules in the 
plant on top of the cannabinoids, all sorts of other things.

He said some have similar drug profiles but completely different 
smells and flavors because of how they've been bred.

Plants are in different rooms based on their age. Younger plants are 
in a room with bright light for long hours, while older plants are in 
a room where you need flashlights to see. Hudson said they're on a 
cycle to imitate the seasons. They take about 18 weeks to fully grow.

"We've gone from a long light cycle, 18-hour days down to short 10- 
to-12 hour days, which is like the fall for a plant," said Hudson. 
"We start to get these little white things shooting out, those are 
actually the flower on the plant."

Hudson's father and his brothers all have multiple sclerosis, or a 
type of neurodegenerative disorder which they classify as multiple 
sclerosis. He said two of them find relief through medical cannabis. 
After listening to their stories, he saw how it provides medical 
benefits when used in the right doses.

"The genetic variation is highly interesting to me, looking at 
variation and starting to identify which genes are really responsible 
for those variations and how we can breed specifically for those 
genes to produce ailment-specific medicine," said Hudson. "So one 
plant that's specifically related to appetite, one that's for sleep."

Operations director Jeff Jacobson said they follow a Health Canada 
document called the directive of physical security requirements,. 
They're required to maintain a low level of security, because the 
closest major city, Toronto, is 100 kilometres away. Jacobson said a 
much higher level of security than required has been put in place to 
protect the employees and the product.

"From the street you have no idea what's here," said Jacobson. "It's 
a barn and a farm. As you got into the property you saw the perimeter 
fencing, 10- foot fence, barbed wire, razor wire. There's actually a 
perimeter protection on that fence that does auto-decibel readings. 
We know if you shake the fence, we know if you kick the fence, we 
know if you cut the fence."

There are more than 70 cameras in the building, motion detectors in 
every room, and glass break detectors in every room with windows. You 
can only access the facility with a card swipe and restricted areas 
require the swipe and a PIN. If you start with a wrong number 
everything goes off.

"Everybody who works in this facility wears a panic button," said Jacobson.

"So in the event that they feel unsafe, hit this button and it goes 
directly to OPP. We're luckily placed on the border of two 
jurisdictions. So we have the Barrie police departments and the 
(Huronia West) police departments."

He said they haven't had any break-in attempts or seen any strange behaviour.

Gobuty said if all medical marijuana businesses follow the same 
practices, it will become a long-lasting industry.

"This is an unconventional, but real business," said Gobuty. "It's 
unconventional because we're not out working to make every penny possible.

It really is about sustainability, and sustainability isn't just a 
green initiative, but how do you plant a seed, grow it, harvest, re- 
plant a seed, and do so where you're not intrusive on your community, 
you're a contributor and really affecting positive change every day.

"We've miraculously arrived there."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom