Pubdate: Thu, 25 Feb 2016
Source: Bloor West Villager (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Bloor West Villager
Email:  By Lisa Rainford


Sidelined by a workplace injury that left him with chronic back pain
and already suffering from fibromyalgia and post-concussion syndrome
attributed to years of playing contact sports, Rick Vrecic was taking
a cocktail of prescription medication just to make it through the day.

About seven years ago, Vrecic relied on as many as five Percocets, 90
mg of morphine and two 80 mg Oxycodone pills daily. It wasn't until
after his doctor gave him a prescription for medical marijuana that
his life radically improved.

"I've replaced (the pills) with four to five (medicinal) cookies a
day, which won't destroy my liver or stomach and won't make me feel
like a walking zombie," he told The Villager.

Vrecic, along with business partner Chris Zentil, are the co-owners of
'True Compassion,' a compassion centre that opened late last year at
Dundas West and Jane streets. Unlike dispensaries or access centres, a
compassion centre, they explained, is solely for medical patients to
purchase medical marijuana. It's run by patients serving patients. It
was the first of two outlets to open in the Junction area recently.
Canada Bliss Herbal Society opened Feb. 1 on Dundas Street West, just
east of High Park Avenue, in the heart of the Junction.

Like Vrecic, Zentil has experienced the healing powers of the medical
herb. After a major car accident in 2001, he started getting seizures.
"I lost my job and my license," he said. "I struggled with finding a
combination of pharmaceuticals. I'm still taking pharmaceuticals in
conjunction with marijuana - I haven't had a seizure since."

Medical marijuana has the ability to stave off and provide relief from
the symptoms of Crohn's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV,
nerve damage, and Cystic Fibrosis, among other illnesses. Membership
to True Compassion Toronto is free, however, a letter of diagnosis
must be included in the application process. Prescriptions can come
from a family doctor, medical specialist, naturopathic doctors and
health practitioners - anyone with government-issued Marijuana for
Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) license.

Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada,
according to Health Canada.

"The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but
the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of
marijuana when authorized by a health care practitioner," says a
statement on its website.

The MMPR, which came into effect in June of 2013, creates conditions
for a commercial industry that is responsible for the production and
distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, according to Health
Canada. They also ensure that Canadians with a medical need can access
quality controlled marijuana grown under secure and sanitary conditions.

Canada Bliss co-owner and director Jon Graham, said a television
report about Vancouver's emerging medical marijuana industry piqued
his interest in dispensaries (institutions where medicines are
prepared and provided).

Once Canada Bliss receives a letter of diagnosis from a doctor, it can
accept people as members - its combined membership of both its
Vancouver and Toronto dispensaries is about 1,600.

"From that point, we try to guide our members to a treatment for their
ailment. The reality is, (medical) marijuana does cure and heal,"
Graham said. "I don't think there's anything that it doesn't help."

The product, at both establishments, is subject to quality control.
Staff can inform membership of its effect and potency.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) levels are significantly lower in medical
marijuana than it is in marijuana obtained on the street.

Information regarding membership is kept private, staff from both
Canada Bliss and True Compassion stressed.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette told The Villager she has
nothing against medical marijuana. Her only stipulation is that the
dispensaries make sure that their users have prescriptions.

At this point, there haven't been any comments - negative or positive
- - about the new additions to the neighbourhood, Doucette said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt