October 02, 2015 - 8:00 PM
KAMLOOPS – A Kamloops doctor could become the proprietor of the city’s first medical marijuana grow operation.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Brownlee sees the grow op as both a business and research opportunity.
Brownlee opened the Welcome Back MRI and Pain Management Centre in 2008 and while he operates on things like brain tumours, the vast majority of his business is dedicated to managing chronic pain — specifically back pain.
Back pain is one of the most difficult things to treat as it’s not always apparent where the pain originates and not always solved with surgery, he says.
Brownlee would like to open a medical clinic dedicated to studying the effectiveness of marijuana in pain management in conjunction to the grow op.
“As a physician... you see lots of people on narcotics who don’t function very well," he says. "I have a lot of other patients who do use medical marijuana… I just find they seem to function a lot better than people who are using narcotics.”
“There’s lots of potential uses for the medical aspect without people using it just to get high.”
Brownlee says cannabis is used to treat a variety of illnesses from lupus to multiple sclerosis and as a means to manage pain, from chronic back conditions to inflammatory bowel disease.
“Those are the kind of people who would be good to collect the data on," he says.
Brownlee sees the legalization of marijuana from a strictly pragmatic standpoint. He believes it makes financial sense to legalize it as it could be taxed similarly to cigarettes or alcohol. He also sees the benefits of having a clean product grown by professionals as it would eliminate the dangers of street drugs.
But as a doctor, he is most interested in marijuana’s healing properties.
“I think from the medical aspect it should be distributed from pharmacies like any other drug is," he says.
Brownlee says the grow operation would be a collaborative business. Along with hiring individuals with actual growing expertise, he has enlisted the help of a handful of consultants. Benchmark Labs out of Calgary is helping with regulatory aspects of the Health Canada application. Two other consultants were hired to help configure the operation and another to advise on security.
The grow operation is currently in the background check stage of the Health Canada application and the City of Kamloops will hold a public hearing on his rezoning application.
Brownlee hopes the background check is the final step before getting the federal licence, but admits, "we don’t know if or when this thing will ever happen, it may never happen." City staff have said it’s possible for the building to house the grow operation to be rezoned but for Health Canada to never grant a license.
Brownlee says when the proposed location goes to public hearing he would explain to anyone opposed the grow op is simply a business and medical research opportunity.
“I think people have questions and I think we can answer them.”
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