Pubdate: Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2014 Winnipeg Free Press
Authors: Mia Rabson and Stephen Burns
Page: A4


New rules limit medicinal producers

OTTAWA'S new rules for obtaining medical marijuana are getting under
the skin of some local medicinal users.

Richard Barahona, 44, was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago.
He tried more traditional methods of treatment but found they were
either worsening his condition or not working.

He says the new system is nothing more than a money

"We should be able to practise our alternative and make ourselves feel
better and recuperating in what we're suffering from," said Barahona,
a former respite worker who is now a co-owner of Vapes on Main, a
downtown medical marijuana cafe.

"We wouldn't take medicine away from other patients. It's just an
opportunity for them (the government) to cash in."

Barahona says the federal government's new system has set prices too
high, so he's been forced to go into sketchy areas in the city to get
his medicine.

"I sometimes find myself in the back lanes of hotels, buying grams
here and there," he said. "I shouldn't have to take a risk to do this."

Until last March, people with a doctor's prescription for medical
marijuana were allowed to grow their own supply. Since March, new
regulations make a small number of Health Canada-approved companies
the only option to get medical marijuana.

Those who were approved to grow their own before March 21, 2014, are
still allowed to do so on a temporary basis pending the outcome of a
court case addressing the issue. The Federal Court trial is expected
to be heard in February 2015.

Bill VanderGraaf is a medical-marijuana user and a co-founder of Vapes
on Main. The cafe is relocating to Albert Street so is closed at the
moment, but VanderGraaf said hundreds of people have come by or
contacted the cafe looking for advice and information about medical

He said he gets a lot of complaints about the lack of access and the
cost of the product that is available.

"The chief complaint is pricing," VanderGraaf said. "It's really

Health Canada's statistics show about 1,400 kilograms of marijuana
were sold by licensed producers between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31. The price
ranged from $2.50 per gram to as high as $15, depending on the
producer and type of marijuana. The average price was between $8 and
$10 per gram.

Health Canada statistics say there were about 38,000 patient
authorizations under the old system, and patients who bought from
Health Canada paid $5 a gram for marijuana. Under the new system,
there are 13,671 patients registered as of Oct. 31.

There are currently only 15 companies licensed to sell medical
marijuana in Canada; seven in Ontario, five in B.C. and one each in
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick.

Under the new system, Health Canada has received more than 1,100
applications from prospective producers. Almost 600 have been deemed
incomplete, more than 200 have been outright rejected and 35 were
withdrawn. Health Canada was still reviewing 301 applications as of
Nov. 24, 13 of which are waiting for inspection - the final step
before approval.

VanderGraaf, a former police officer, said people are on long waiting
lists and others are paying through the nose for shipping costs.

"It's basically the same as street prices," he said.

VanderGraaf said the government could help by increasing the number of
producers, but he said the best solution is legalizing marijuana.

"If the regulations are reasonable we should be able to grow it and
take it away from the black market," he said.

He said some dispensaries aren't bothering to get a licence from
Health Canada because the process is so bureaucratic.

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For more information, visit the Health Canada website and check out
their section on medical marijuana at

Criteria for users of medicinal marijuana:

To qualify for medical marijuana you must exhibit the following
symptoms, according to Health Canada. You also need proof from a
medical professional that more "traditional" treatments have already
been considered. They include any symptom treated within the context
of compassionate end-of-life care and symptoms related to specific
medical conditions, such as:

Severe pain and/ or persistent muscle spasms from multiple

Severe pain and/ or persistent muscle spasms from a spinal cord

Severe pain and/ or persistent muscle spasms from a spinal cord

Severe pain, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, and/or severe nausea
from cancer.

Severe pain, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, and/or severe nausea
from HIV/AIDS infection

Severe pain from severe forms of arthritis.

Seizures from epilepsy.
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