June 27, 2013 - 8:00 AM
ONCE AGAIN UNDER THREAT OF JAIL
This is the fourth of a five-part series on changes in the marijuana industry. Today, we look at medicinal marijuana users. There's little doubt that marijuana has its medical benefits and is a preferred treatment by many. But to prefer it, they had to try it and that's where the line often blurs. Patients who have used it culturally and recreationally are the ones championing the medical movement. And if they looked past Criminal Code rules to get it, Health Canada rules aren't going to stop them either. Tomorrow, we look at how entrepreneurs and big business sees itself in the industry.
Also in the series:
Canada unveils another new era for medical marijuana
Doctors the lynch-pin for marijuana access
Pot farmers driven back underground following new regulations
It’s mid-afternoon in a rural home nestled high in the hills overlooking the North Okanagan Valley. In his wheelchair, the 50-something resident of this peaceful dwelling rolls over to the fridge and heaves open the freezer door where half a dozen bags of pot are stored. He takes out a bag of Purple Kush and some Canna Caps (cannabis capsules) and sets them on the counter.
Herb, who preferred to keep his identity concealed in this article, has had Hepatitis C for over 30 years, contracted from a tainted blood transfusion. He’s recently undergone a liver transplant which will buy him more time, but between the surgery and the damage done by the disease his days are spent battling pain, nausea and exhaustion.
He first tried marijuana as a teenager in the 1960s. At that time, he smoked it for the social atmosphere. Later, he cultivated it for money, and in the past few years he’s come to depend on it to get him through the day.
Since his pain is mostly arthritic, Herb chooses to ingest cannabis rather than smoke it. The effects are longer lasting and more effective for the particular ailment he’s trying to treat.
“I can smoke a joint and feel euphoric in ten minutes, but it passes easily in an hour,” Herb says. “And smoking’s not the best thing you can do for your body. I have an awfully hard time hurting myself, I guess because I’ve had to be health conscious for so long.”
Herb will either take an olive oil and marijuana Canna Cap like one would pop an aspirin, or cook up some homemade pot butter.
“I cook with it in different ways, but my favourite is to have it is just spread on a piece of toast,” he says. “The Canna Caps are convenient because you can just take them anywhere and it’s no big deal.”
As a patient, he doesn't like where Health Canada is going with its new regulations. And going around the rules will once again make him a criminal, as well as a patient.
“I’ll be able to grow a few plants this summer, but next year it’ll be illegal,” Herb says. “If you have two plants growing in your yard, you get two years in jail.”
Under Health Canada’s new regulations, residential grows will no longer be permitted. Individuals who grow for themselves, and those who grow on behalf of patients, will become criminals. New procedure will require medical marijuana users to obtain a prescription from their doctor and order it by mail.
AN OUTLAW BY PRINCIPLE: 'PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO THEIR PRODUCT'
Herb, who grows five different strains, says this will lead to a less convenient, more expensive product. He says there’s nothing cheaper than growing it yourself, or having a designated grower do it for you.
But it’s about more than that.
“I’ve been an outlaw all my life, I’m not going to conform to their rules,” Herb says. “It’s the principle of the thing.”
While he doesn’t doubt the commercial grows will deliver a quality product, he believes many people like himself, who believe marijuana should simply be legalized, will refuse to participate in the system. He’s sick of Health Canada’s back and forth regulations, first giving people the right to grow legally, and now taking it away.
Having been part of the generation that pioneered modern day hydroponic grow systems, Herb has a farmer’s pride in the product he creates. He’s helped set up over 50 grow-ops over the years, using his background in construction to safely wire and install everything.
He remembers when the hills around the North Okanagan were green with marijuana crops. Now, they’ve gone underground, hidden from the eyes of the authorities.
“People have a right to their product,” he says.
For Herb and many others, growing his own medicine is far more preferable than buying it from a commercial retailer. Just like backyard chicken farmers, or gardeners, he’d rather grow his own or buy from someone down the street.
“Who’s going to buy from these new industrial grows?” Herb says. “Nobody I know.”
Few growers will have the capital to invest in the multi-million dollar factories Health Canada has outlined in its new regulations. But that doesn’t mean they’ll stop growing.
“People will still be doing it because there’s money in it. They’ll still do it, and they’ll still get busted,” Herb says.
Through a lifetime of marijuana, Herb has learned its value as a medicine, a source of income and a social activity. Just this morning, he had a friend visiting, and they chatted over a marijuana laced brunch.
“I’m not touting it as only a medicine,” Herb says. “It's been a great social thing in my life, my sons life. I feel very strongly about it.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230. Follow on Twitter @charhelston
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013