Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2014
Source: Simcoe Reformer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Sun Media
Author: Daniel R. Pearce


MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Operation sets up in Walsingham area

The new world of medical marijuana growing has arrived in Norfolk 
County in the form of a 20-acre operation in Walsingham.

And it comes tailored to new tougher federal regulations governing 
legal grow-ops that come into effect April 1.

It is a highly-secure site with tall fences topped with a foot of 
barbed wire surrounding multiple greenhouses. High-definition cameras 
are everywhere, recording on tape everything that happens while 
infrared sensors can detect prowlers at night. The drying and 
packaging facility is "built like a bunker" and includes a vault 
where the finished product will be stored.

The only thing missing is 24-hour onsite security personnel.

The facility, owned and operated by the pharmaceutical company 
Maricann, represents the birth of a new era in legal pot growing in 
Canada and Norfolk.

Gone is the old system in which licences were issued to growers to 
produce relatively small amounts and do their own security. Some of 
them set up in greenhouses on area farms and drew the concerns of police.

The Maricann operation is moving into an existing legal grow-op. It 
has spent $800,000 so far expanding and bringing it up to the new 
standards and is keeping the current grower on staff for his 
expertise, said company vice-president Peter Saunders.

What used to be an 8,000-square-foot facility is now 
80,000-square-feet, he told Norfolk council Tuesday night.

Production will start sometime this May or June. About two tons of 
pot will be produced a year and 20 full-time jobs will be created 
with a combined payroll of $1.5 million a year.

Saunders said his company looked at a number of possible sites in 
southern Ontario but settled on this one in part because of the 
growing conditions here - lots of sunshine and sandy soil.

Medical marijuana holds out economic promise for Norfolk County, 
Saunders told council.

"You guys are in the business of agriculture," he said. "It can 
generate new opportunities for citizens and the surrounding area . . 
. This is a great opportunity to develop new business."

Saunders assured elected officials that having personnel onsite at 
all times isn't necessary.

"Nothing anywhere in the facility is not being monitored," he 
explained. "We believe the level of detection and response time from 
local police should be adequate."

Houghton Coun. Betty Chanyi pointed out that police "are not 
stationed right in the area. We don't have a station close at hand. 
Because of the proximity of a certain institution (a high school), I 
recommend you go with full-time security."

Maricann did not require approval from elected officials to set up 
its site but decided to come to council because it wants to "build a 
relationship" with town hall, said Saunders.

Port Dover Coun. John Wells expressed concern that council has "very 
little input" and "very little control" over medical marijuana grow sites.

"Our ratepayers will hold us responsible," warned Wells. "It reminds 
me of the wind turbines. We get the flak without any of the input."



Who can buy Maricann's product?

Only people with a prescription. Usually they suffer from severe chronic pain.

Do they come to Norfolk to buy their drugs?

No, that's not allowed. The purchase is done through either their 
doctor or through the mail How do they ingest it? It can be smoked, 
but Maricann recommends using a vaporizer.

Does marijuana really help them?

Yes, says Maricann vice-president Peter Saunders. For many sufferers, 
marijuana is a game-changer that restores their quality of life.

How many people in Canada use medical marijuana?

Health Canada figures put the number at 36,000.

Are there other legal marijuana grow sites open in Norfolk County 
under the new rules?

Not yet. However, town hall has heard of another four or five groups 
that are looking at the area.
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