Pubdate: Thu, 06 Aug 2015
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2015 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Alexandra Paul


Storefront filled need, advocate says

DELTA 9 Bio-Tech, the only federally licensed medical-marijuana
operation in Manitoba, says it has room for 200 new patients this month.

Others will turn to their own stash of pot. And as a last resort,
there's always the street.

Police shut down Winnipeg's only storefront medical-pot dispensary,
Your Medical Cannabis Headquarters, in a raid Tuesday. Owner Glenn
Price faces drug charges.

The reality for many medical-marijuana users is that the options are
limited, despite the optimistic rhetoric, one vocal advocate said.

"What happens now? Patients are left without a local resource to get
their medical marijuana. And there will be patients who will go
without. I guarantee it," said Steven Stairs, a licensed user of
medical marijuana.

"Going to the shop was their only resource. They won't be able to go
online, go to a different city. Or they're going to have to go back to
the black market," Stairs said. Stairs won't be one of them. Part
horticulturalist, part self-taught legal beagle, Stairs portrays
himself as a typical medical marijuana user in Manitoba - with one
exception - he's a vocal advocate.

He has held a medical specialist's authorization to treat glaucoma
with medical marijuana since 2009. His prescription eye drops contain
a pot derivative. He grows his own, too, in a wide variety of
recognized strains and hybrids.

A 2014 Federal Court challenge successfully overturned a regulation
that would have banned patients from growing their own pot; any
patients who were licensed as of Sept. 30, 2013, such as Stairs, may
still cultivate it.

Stairs estimates he's among 1,000 medical-marijuana users in Manitoba
afforded a measure of legal protection under that court challenge.

The reality is these sophisticated growers end up being their own
advocates, facing challenge after challenge, Stairs said.

"You have to know your rights, better than (the police) or in a job
situation, or a custody situation or even in a health-care situation
where you're caring for a dying loved one," Stairs said. "And if
you're forcing patients to go back to the black market, you're
violating their constitutional rights."

Stairs is fiercely loyal to Price and his battle for access. The shop
owner had operated his small store since July 1 without a licence,
aware he risked being arrested.

It's illegal to run storefronts that sell medical pot in Canada.
Marijuana, classified as a narcotic, is illegal for recreational use.

Price is charged with trafficking and possession offences, as well as
possession of proceeds of crime after police issued two search
warrants at his home and business.

He has repeatedly vowed to fight his charges in court.

The only licensed producer in Manitoba, Delta 9 Bio Tech Inc., is
accepting new patients, vice-president John Arbuthnot said Wednesday.

In the coming months, once a planned expansion gets the federal
go-ahead, Delta 9 could boost its client base to 1,800 from its
current 750.

"We certainly are accepting new clients. We're bringing in about 200 a
month," Arbuthnot said, adding there's also a "sizable waiting list"
of another 1,300 potential clients who would qualify once they have
medical authorization.

To get a prescription filled, a patient must file a formal request
(available online through Health Canada) from a doctor or an
authorized nurse practitioner with one of the 25 licensed commercial
grow operations.

A licensed grower must call the doctor who signed the authorization
for confirmation and then check the doctor's name against the
provincial college of physicians and surgeons and a federal database
known as the "black list," to ensure the doctor's good standing and
status to prescribe narcotics. Only then can a licensed grower fill
and ship an order.

"We can have someone registered as quickly as one day or it could take
a couple of weeks. In terms of red tape, it's getting easier,"
Arbuthnot said.

For advocates such as Stairs, however, the raid of the pot shop is an
example of the hurdles in a draconian regulatory system.

"Your average GP who has 1,000 patients doesn't have time to do the
research for one guy who needs medical marijuana.

"It doesn't serve the need for access for patients. That's why the
only solution right now is legalization, regulation and taxation,"
Stairs said.
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