Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jan 2014
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Brandon Barrett


Cultivator Looking To Courts To Help Fight New Regulations

A Sea to Sky medical marijuana home grower is speaking out against new
federal regulations he believes will put his health at risk.

And he is slamming the government's characterizations, which suggest
that home-growers cultivate in an unsafe manner, which puts neighbours
at risk or creates a draw for criminals who want to steal the
marijuana to sell on the streets.

"It's the government's falsities of mould, danger and organized crime
that are pushing this (program) to be removed," said the Sea to Sky
resident, who Pique has agreed not to name.

He believes that Ottawa is seeking to monopolize on a legal marijuana
supply industry that's been predicted by Health Canada to produce $1.3
billion in annual revenue by 2024. Ottawa reported nearly $1.7 million
in revenue from the sale of dried marijuana and seeds during the
fiscal year of 2011-12.

"With anything, you're going to get abuse," he said, explaining that
he has a potentially debilitating neurological condition and is
permitted to possess up to 1,350 grams of dried cannabis at a time and
30 marijuana plants in his home. His prescription is for six grams a
day, which he typically consumes in concentrated form, or tinctures.

"You go into a couple licensed breweries around the country and
they're going to be below health standards, that's just the way it is.
Just because it's marijuana, you can't just lump us all in because
there are a few bad apples."

Many Canadian medical marijuana users have been critical of the
changes announced in the switchover to Ottawa's new Marihuana for
Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). Many patients would prefer to
continue sourcing specific strains of cannabis from small-scale
growers, or produce their own.

Lawsuits challenging the full implementation of Ottawa's MMPR have
been filed in B.C. and Ontario courts, claiming patients are being
prevented from accessing affordable medicine. B.C. lawyer John Conroy
has compiled impact statements from medicinal cannabis users,
including this grower, in order to challenge the new regulatory
framework on constitutional grounds.

The home grower said he has worked diligently to cross breed the right
strain for his specific condition.

"(Growers) are able to create genetics specifically for them that help
their conditions that they may not be able to find again, or will have
to go through that whole process of finding those genetics again
through a licensed producer, but this time it's going to cost you $12
(a gram)," he said. "I don't have the money to go through that trial
and error process to figure that out, which is going to directly
influence my quality of life."

Federal officials have projected the average price of a gram under the
new MMPR program will be $7.60, although producers will have the
ability to set their own prices. This is still well above the $1 to $4
cost many home growers have been able to achieve cultivating their own
product, or Health Canada's current $5 per gram price for cannabis
produced under contract.

The price hike means patients potentially will spend hundreds of
additional dollars a month once the new program comes into effect,
which will force them to purchase less cannabis as a result.

"If you're charging someone with leukemia a thousand dollars a month
(for medical marijuana), are you really doing this person a favour?"
asked the grower. "Are you really doing a medical service or are you
contributing to her discomfort? Are you contributing to her death or
to her life?"

The added costs will also increase the temptation for licensed users
and growers to sell their overflow of medicinal pot on the black
market, he said.

"We are all patients, we don't all necessarily have a lot of money.
Being able to supplement (your income), or buy your groceries or pay
your hydro bill is really appetizing to some people because it's that
easy, it's cannabis," he said. "These are just normal, good people who
work other jobs and have families and will want to supplement (their
income) a tiny bit."

Critics of the MMPR program have also pointed to a reduction in
overall quality of the medicinal marijuana that will be produced.
Commercial operators will have to meet rigorous quality standards, but
will have the option to irradiate the cannabis they produce in order
to eradicate potential mould spores and bacteria.

Starting April 1, the roughly 38,000 Canadians currently licensed to
possess medicinal marijuana will no longer be permitted to produce
their own cannabis, or source it from approved small-scale home
growers. Instead, the production of medical marijuana will turn over
to large, for-profit commercial operations authorized by Health Canada
to cultivate and sell pot. Patients will receive only dried cannabis
sent directly by mail or courier in childproof packaging.

In a 2012 assessment, Health Canada said that medical marijuana should
be produced and distributed as much as possible in the same manner as
medication, and also highlighted the current Marihuana Medical Access
Regulations (MMAR) program's "potential for diversion of marijuana to
the illicit market due to limited security requirements, the risk of
violent home invasion by criminals attempting to steal marijuana, fire
hazards due to faulty or overloaded electricity installation to
accommodate high-intensity lighting for its cultivation, and humidity
and poor air quality."

The federal government is not permitted to share the location of
licensed grow-ops with municipal or law enforcement officials. Health
Canada has said it will provide written guidance to current program
users to facilitate the proper disposal of dried cannabis and
marijuana plants and encourage compliance with federal, provincial and
municipal laws.

"Health Canada won't have any authority to ensure the remediation (of
these grow-op homes) takes place, so that's a concern, but even under
the Privacy Act, Health Canada can't tell us where they are, so we
won't know whether they have been remediated," Wilhelm-Morden told
Pique last month. The paper revealed there were 18 in Whistler.

Less than 500 medicinal users were licensed when the MMAR program was
launched in 2002. Health Canada predicts there will be nearly 309,000
Canadians permitted to possess medicinal marijuana in 2024. 
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