Pubdate: Thu, 28 Apr 2016
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Peter Thurley
Note: Peter Thurley is principal and chief writing officer at Peter 
Thurley Communications and Consulting Services based in Kitchener, 
and was the 2011 federal NDP candidate in Kitchener Centre.
Page: A9


As I took the first draw on my vaporizer this April 20th, I found 
myself shaking my head, marvelling at the fact that I am now a user 
of marijuana for medical purposes.

Having been diagnosed in early 2015 with a rare condition known a 
desmoid fibromatosis, I underwent a life-saving surgery to fix my 
bowels, which had burst as a result of a fast growing tumour. 
Weighing in at 11.34 kilograms (25 pounds), the tumour, while 
non-metastasizing, had all the markings of cancer and was thus 
treated like cancer. My recovery is being followed closely by a 
fantastic team of doctors at the Grand River Cancer Centre.

As I underwent my recovery, I continued to experience significant 
pain across my abdomen. Unfortunately, the opiates I had been sent 
home with were leaving me extremely drowsy and groggy, affecting my 
recovery and potential return to work.

After yet another hospitalization due to unexplained pain, I asked my 
doctor about medical cannabis. He agreed to refer me on the condition 
that I report back to him with as many specifics as possible so he 
could better understand its effectiveness.

After visiting with the local clinic of the Canadian Cannabis Clinic, 
I was all set to go. I'd selected a licensed producer, one company 
out of 27 legal providers in Canada, and I was out the door.

Online ordering was a breeze, and within days I had my very first 
draw of medical cannabis. My licensed producer, Canada's largest, 
occupies the former Hershey Factory space in Smith's Falls, Ont.

Tweed Inc. made headlines recently when it announced a five-year 
partnership with Snoop Dogg, an icon in marijuana subculture.

That sent mixed signals to me, as a medical patient, that Tweed Inc., 
is perhaps more concerned about the recreational market than the 
medical market. Already many patients wait months in order to access 
the strains they need from their licensed producer, which are ordered 
online and sent by Canada Post.

To my knowledge, the regulations currently prohibit having more than 
one licensed producer, so when the strain of cannabis that works best 
for a patient is out of stock or in production, the patient has no 
choice but to choose another strain, or to wait, without medicine, 
for the production cycle to end.

Compare these barriers to legal access with the ease of quasi-legal 
access in major urban centres, where dispensaries are opening up 
large storefronts. In these setups, the marijuana is acquired from 
legal sources, usually excess production from legally grandfathered 
personal grow-ops, and sold through shops, which are, themselves, illegal.

Thus an unhealthy competition between licensed producers and 
dispensaries has taken hold, with medical cannabis patients stuck in 
the middle. And still the federal government dithers when it comes to 
introducing legislation that would legalize and regulate the sale of 
both recreational and medical cannabis, putting an end to this 
confusing system.

When I was a candidate for the New Democratic Party in 2011, the 
issue of decriminalization, legalization and regulation of cannabis 
wasn't even on the national radar.

Yet, as we saw in the 2015 federal election, both medical and 
recreational cannabis is high on the list of voter concerns. Both the 
NDP and the Liberals committed to its full legalization and 
regulation within the first weeks of the campaign. And on Jan. 8, 
newly minted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed former Toronto 
police chief Bill Blair to lead the legalization and regulatory framework.

As a new medical marijuana patient, these varying legal and 
quasi-legal systems have been confusing. All I want is to access my 
medicine, when I need it, at an affordable price. I've been forced to 
use a storefront dispensary that had a strain that worked for me, 
while that same strain was in production at Tweed.

I, for one, would welcome the ability to pick up my medicine 
discreetly at a convenient Shoppers Drug Mart location, just like I 
do with all my other painkillers.

In the meantime, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced on 
last week's 4/20 - a day sacred to cannabis users - that the Trudeau 
government would bring legalization and regulation of medical 
cannabis laws in the spring of 2017. The truth is, for many patients, 
that's just too long to wait.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom