The first debt and equity fund to invest in medical marijuana has been launched in Illinois.
A B.C. medical marijuana producer is seeking approval from Health Canada to sponsor the first study in Canada on the safety and effectiveness of cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among sexual assault victims, military veterans and first responder personnel.
The Nanaimo medical marijuana facility called Tilray — one of about 20 Health Canada-licensed producers in the country — is sponsoring the $350,000 study. It would be conducted by University of B.C. researchers at the Kelowna campus and would require UBC ethics board approval. If the study overcomes regulatory hurdles, recruitment of participants with PTSD would begin early next year.
Zach Walsh, a UBC psychology professor who would be the study’s principal investigator, said marijuana is used by an unknown proportion of PTSD patients for symptoms including flashbacks, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability and changes in sleep and appetite. Yet there is a paucity of scientific evidence about therapeutic benefits or risks of use.
“Physicians and patients are hungry for research on marijuana. Medical research is playing catch-up with cannabis use so we really need to do these kinds of controlled studies,” said Walsh, who is a co-director for UBC’s Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law. “My professional interest is in developing effective therapies for psychological disorders.”
It’s not known how many PTSD patients use cannabis but a 2008 Canadian study estimated that 9.2 per cent of the population will suffer from the extreme anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. At any time, 2.4 per cent of people have symptoms as a result of experiencing or witnessing major trauma.
Standard treatment often involves the use of powerful antidepressants, antipsychotics, sleeping pills and other drugs, many of which are “not harmless” since they have unwanted side effects, Walsh noted. While cognitive behavioural therapy is the gold standard, not all patients can afford it or get it. That’s partly why many turn to self-medicating with substances like marijuana, and observational studies or case reports have shown some benefits.
“But this has been a patient-led movement. The medical establishment has trailed with research,” he said.
Walsh said marijuana can also have unwanted side effects, such as bronchial problems or cognition difficulties (memory, paranoia) but researchers and medical dispensary experts believe that may be a function of which strains and delivery methods are used.
“I think the best medical marijuana dispensaries have actually done a remarkably good job of matching strains to patients’ experience. They’ve got the dedication and expertise and really listen to patients. They take their jobs seriously,” Walsh said.
Philippe Lucas, vice-president of patient research at Tilray, said the value of the cannabis supplied by his firm will be about $40,000 (or $1,000 for each of the 40 study participants) but it’s a complex study to organize so various staff will be hired by UBC researchers to co-ordinate the logistics.
Participants will pick up their marijuana and vaporizers at a secure location in the Kelowna area and must return to the lab weekly, so it’s expected most participants will be residents of the B.C. interior region.
Those selected for the trial will have to undergo a two-week “washout” period before starting the trial, which means they will have to stop using marijuana if they are already doing so. Washouts will also take place each time they change strains, but participants, researchers and independent reviewers will be blinded to the strains of cannabis to guard against bias.
Lucas said he doesn’t expect there will be any difficulty finding PTSD patients for the study. Tilray already has 150 customers with PTSD who buy their products, including military veterans and former RCMP officers.
He said Tilray is the first and only Health Canada medical marijuana-licensed producer to announce an intention to conduct a clinical trial for a mental health ailment. Tilray opened its production facility to grow and distribute medical cannabis for Canadian patients in April 2014. The $20-million facility claims to employ more than 100 scientists, botanists and horticulturalists.
The Truro Herbal Company has raised $700,000 in capital and has bought a 2.6-hectare plot of land from the Town of Truro in the town’s industrial park.
The company, headed by Evan Price, hopes to be growing medical marijuana in the park by next spring.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our community,” said Price, 30. “We have the funds in place and the land secured to develop THC’s production facility in Truro.”
The company submitted its application for growing and selling medical marijuana to Health Canada in March. The application was accepted and has been advancing through the licence review process.
The next step in the Health Canada licensing process is obtaining the right to begin construction, Price said.
The company plans a huge state-of-the-art agricultural building for the project, with 15,000-square-feet on the ground floor growing area, and another 5,000 square feet in a second storey.
“We’re waiting to hear from Health Canada that all the security equipment we’re going to use meets the requirements,” Price said.
When the building approval is granted, Price said it ought to take about three months or so to get the facility constructed and ready for operation. Then, it will take another couple of months for a final inspection “before we start growing product.
“That should be some time in the spring.”
Price said the seeds used to grow the plants must be obtained from a list of registered suppliers.
Dr. John Gillis, vice-president of medical development, said the company is making progress toward providing “quality medicine to patients in Atlantic Canada with genuine needs.”
Price said the people who rely on the medicine take this opportunity very seriously.
“Pretty well everybody that we talk to has a family member who has been affected or who has some kind of cancer,” Price said. “The people who are affected by it are very conscious that there is an opportunity here to have some necessary medicine provided for people who are in very tough life conditions.”
When production gets underway, Price expects the operation to employ from 35 to 50 people.
It’s more about desperation, than the desire to be rebellious. (The Power Of Forever Photography/Getty Images)
When Bonni Goldstein, MD, medical director of Canna-Centers, a group of medical marijuana practices in California, prescribes cannabidiol — a compound extracted from marijuana — to children with epilepsy, she always clarifies to their parents that the long-term risks of the compound are unknown. “It wasn’t available 30 years ago,” she explains. Yet, “every single parent has said to me, ‘Well, I don’t know the long-term effects of the medications my child is taking, and the seizures haven’t stopped. I’d like to give my child the best chance possible.’”
Without fail, they accept the cannabidiol, or CBD. In fact, many have come to Goldstein specifically for the drug, knowing already, through Internet forums, that the marijuana extract could equal hope for their sick child.
“To many of these people, it’s just another medication to try,” says Goldstein.
A number of her pediatric patients are non-responders — that is, they’re among the roughly one-third of people with epilepsy for whom conventional medications don’t work. The meds may reduce the frequency or severity of seizures, but fail to eliminate them entirely; some children don’t respond to the drugs, period. “What’s driving people is the option of another medication, even if it’s not been thoroughly researched,” she says. With epilepsy, “it’s very difficult, especially when a child is involved, to live a normal life. Seizures are unpredictable. Imagine being in Target with your child, and your child drops to the floor. Imagine getting a call from school that your child is seizing.”
For Ray Mirzabegian, director of the nonprofit Realm of Caring California, the decision to seek out CBD was an obvious one. Just a couple years ago, his 10-year-old daughter, Emily, was taking four different anti-seizure medications. “Unfortunately, that causes a vegetative state,” he tells Yahoo Health. She’d tried a total of 13 medications, and none effectively controlled her epilepsy: At her worst, she was having 120 seizures a day, at best, 40 to 45 a month. “At that point, [doctors] start retrying some of the medications that failed,” hoping to create a cocktail of several drugs that would work, says Mirzabegian. “We decided that’s not the route to go.”
As with Mirzabegian, it’s often desperation — not rebellion against convention — that pushes parents to seek medical marijuana for their children. It’s hope that drives them to scour the Internet, searching for any shred of information that may provide relief, even though public opinion is largely against them. Goldstein has seen families move across the country to California just to seek CBD for their children, since marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug — that is, “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” — under federal law. (Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996.)
Around 2011, recalls Goldstein, cannabis-testing labs became more widespread. This enabled doctors, growers, and patients to determine exactly how much THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) and CBD (the proposed anti-seizure element) are found in different strains of the drug. As a result, Goldstein says she’s seen a significant uptick in the number of parents seeking medical marijuana for their children with epilepsy — a trend likely accelerated by the 2013 CNN documentary “WEED,” which made “Charlotte’s Web,” a strain of marijuana used to treat epilepsy, a household name among parents of seizure-stricken children.
“Charlotte’s Web is high in CBD and low in THC,” says Goldstein. “Someone looking to get high would be disappointed by its effects.” According to a report in the journal Epilepsia, Charlotte, the little girl for whom the strain was named, has been weaned from all other antiepileptic drugs after 20 months of effective treatment with Charlotte’s Web. Similar varieties of CBD-rich marijuana available in California include ACDC, Harlequin, and Cannatonic. “CBD is taken as an oil under the tongue or swallowed,” Goldstein says. “It’s not smoked.”
Since the documentary’s release, an increasing number of parents have gone public, admitting that their children with epilepsy are being treated with CBD. Just last week, a Eugene, Oregon, family shared their success story with a local news station, KATU, saying they resorted to CBD oil after their young son became suicidal — what they believe was a side effect of his anti-seizure medications. “I have my son again. He’s not this fog of a child. He’s not this angry child. He’s my child exactly,” the boy’s mother, Tanesha Smelser, told KATU. Like Charlotte’s Web, the oil that her son is taking is low in THC — less than 1 percent — and high in CBD.
It was this CNN documentary that prompted Mirzabegian’s first visit to Colorado — just three days after he saw it — where he met with the Stanley brothers, the growers who produce Charlotte’s Web. “I couldn’t bring anything back, because it’s illegal to transfer the product between state lines,” he says. But he did return to California educated about the potential benefits of CBD, prompting him to buy any CBD-rich product he could find in his state. “Two-and-a-half years ago, a lot of the dispensaries didn’t know what CBD was,” he says. “We bought a lot of stuff — and all of them failed.” (Later testing revealed that the products he’d purchased didn’t truly contain CBD.)
That’s when Mirzabegian started a Facebook page, “The Pediatric Cannabis Group of California,” dedicated to bringing Charlotte’s Web to children with epilepsy in his home state. Within a few months, hundreds of parents had joined — and with the help of the Stanley brothers, Mirzabegian was able to open the California chapter of their non-profit, Realm of Caring, in August 2013.
It’s not just in the United States that parents are becoming desperate. “I have a family who is actually coming to see me from Europe, because they can’t find any relief for their child’s seizures,” says Goldstein. In Chile, a group of about 100 parents have banded together, creating a group called Mama Cultiva, or “Mama Grows,” designed to share information about cultivating marijuana and extracting cannabis oil to treat their children with epilepsy. Many grow marijuana in their own backyards, even though they could be imprisoned for up to 15 years for doing so.
To many in the medical community, these parents are relying, at best, on shaky science. A 2013 Cochrane review of studies examining CBD as a treatment for epilepsy concluded that, due to the dearth of large, high-quality studies, “the safety of long-term cannibidiol treatment cannot be reliably assessed.”
“All we can say is that it appears to be safe for short periods of time,” David Gloss, MD, a neurologist and co-author of the Cochrane review, tells Yahoo Health. “You have to remember this is new — we do not have long-term studies,” adds Goldstein. “There are a couple kids in Colorado that have been on it for over two years and have had no negative side effects.” In a recent Epilepsy & Behavior study, the only side effects of CBD that parents reported in their children were drowsiness, fatigue, and a decrease in appetite; none reported psychoactive effects.
Related: As Pot Smoking Rises, So Do Addiction Concerns
However, as Orrin Devinsky, MD, a professor of neurology at NYU, tells Yahoo Health, “we don’t fully understand the safety of medical marijuana for children.” Even so, he does believe there’s enough data to permit compassionate use in children with epilepsy that can’t be controlled through available medications and diet.
The anecdotal outcomes have been undeniably impressive: In a 2013 survey of parents who belong to a Facebook group devoted to sharing information about CBD for epilepsy, published in Epilepsy & Behavior, 84 percent reported a reduction in their child’s frequency of seizures while taking the drug. And 11 percent said the seizures disappeared entirely.
Since Emily, the daughter of Mirzabegian, started taking CBD, her frequency of seizures has decreased dramatically to about four per month. “It’s allowed us to bring her off meds, and that alone has brought so much of her back — behavior, cognition, speech, learning ability, everything,” her father says. “And there are cases even better than ours. I have patients in San Diego now, several of them, who have been seizure-free for eight, nine months.”
It’s stories like this that continue to compel parents to relocate their families to California and Colorado. “Families ask, ‘Given the dramatic responses documented in the media, how could any reasonable physician deny access to [medical marijuana]?’” Devinsky wrote in a recent commentary in Epilepsia. The problem is, there’s a lack of clarity about how, exactly, CBD might stave off seizures, although a handful of potential mechanisms have been identified, says Gloss. “There’s a whole list of potential targets — they may all work together, or it may be one of them in particular,” he says. “We don’t really know.”
What is clear: Animal studies have shown that CBD works as an anticonvulsant, giving patients and providers hope that a new drug is on the horizon. In fact, GW Pharmaceuticals is currently investigating Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD, as a treatment for Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy (the type that both Charlotte and Emily suffer from).
Until the FDA approves a CBD-derived drug, Gloss says he “can’t make a judgment. There have been case reports of people who started taking marijuana and their seizures went away — maybe for those children, there is something there.” However, he cautions, these parents are skirting the methods of conventional medicine. “This isn’t how we typically prescribe medicine in the United States,” says Gloss. “We do things by trials, we see that things are safe, and then they become approved by the FDA. Do the benefits outweigh the risk? Right now we don’t know. The data is not out there for [CBD] to be used outside of a research trial.”
“There’s certainly not enough research,” concedes Goldstein. “But you have to remember, some of these kids are having hundreds of seizures a day. Any parent would pick up and move for their child if they heard something might work and actually has some scientific basis. People have this vision of medical marijuana as someone sitting and smoking a joint. That is no longer what this is about.”
It’s not just the lack of research that’s creating a roadblock for parents — it’s also the legality of CBD. About six months ago, Mirzabegian opened a California clinic strictly offering Charlotte’s Web, along with training and seminars for parents. “Nine days later, it got shut down, even though the state issued us a license that cost us three grand,” he says. The solution: He’s currently working with an existing dispensary to distribute Charlotte’s Web — a set-up he considers less than ideal. “Dispensaries do not allow minors to come in,” he says. “So I have to tell the parents, ‘Look, you need to keep your children in the car.’ What if the little kid wants to use the restroom? It’s just embarrassing — it sucks.”
In California alone, the waiting list for Charlotte’s Web is between 1,200 and 1,300 people. “Nationwide, it’s 14,000 probably,” Mirzabegian says. However, he’s hopeful that 2015 will be the year he’s finally able to help these thousands of other parents, currently unable to access Charlotte’s Web due to federal laws against shipping CBD across state lines. The Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014, introduced by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-PA, is due for Congressional review, and if passed, would allow nationwide shipment of CBD products that contain little to no THC.
In addition to tackling the legal side of the CBD issue, Realm of Caring is also working to facilitate “real” research. “We as a foundation are part of clinical trials right now — whoever is coming off the waiting list is part of clinical trial data collection,” Mirzabegian says. “I need the scientific community to buy into this and believe us. We have hundreds of people using CBD now, and they’re reporting data. And the medical community doesn’t like this data — they say, ‘Oh, it’s anecdotal evidence.’ Anecdotal evidence is so underrated — it’s evidence from human beings.”
A state that has a medical marijuana program but doesn’t allow medical marijuana dispensaries will never function properly. Patients need safe access to medical marijuana, and not every patient can grow it for themselves. Growing marijuana can cost a lot of money, and it takes a skill set that not everyone can obtain. That’s why medical marijuana dispensaries are so important. Hawaii’s State Auditor agrees. Per Marijuana Business Daily:
“Because the sale of marijuana is illegal under state law, there is no place within the state to legally obtain marijuana, which forces qualifying medical marijuana patients to either grow their own (MMJ) or seek out black market products,” the report reads. “For this overriding reason, we conclude that regulation of dispensaries is needed to protect the public from potential harm.”
The report goes on to say that without a system of regulated dispensaries, “patients’ health is jeopardized because a product’s strength, strain and lack of contaminants cannot be verified,” the report continues.
My home state of Oregon didn’t allow medical marijuana dispensaries for well over a decade after the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program was created. It caused a lot of headaches for law enforcement and patients because patients were forced to purchase marijuana on the black market. A bill was introduced last year that would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii but it didn’t go anywhere. Hopefully the next legislative session in Hawaii is more favorable.
Sales of shares in Australia’s first initial public offering of a medical marijuana company are booming ahead of the company’s scheduled Dec. 22 debut on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Phytotech, which is based in Perth, is seeking to raise $5 million (AUS) per the brochure listing the company’s ambitions, which includes selling medical pot and a device to consume it. Phytotech is also looking to the future with its play. Currently, marijuana production and sale are illegal in Australia, but the company is building for a time when the law will be different.
Founder and executive director Ross Smith said interest has been truly international and robust. He said there has been interest from people as far away as Russia and the United States.
“South of the equator there’s nothing available in the medicinal cannabis sphere,” Smith said. “We’re going to close it early because it’s so massively oversubscribed.”
I was recently asked by a reader ‘how many medical marijuana patients are there in Arizona?’ The question came up in an e-mail exchange that involved Arizona’s chances of legalizing marijuana in 2016, which by the way I think the chances are very strong. The State of Arizona releases an annual statistical report about its medical marijuana program, will on being issued very recently that included the number of patients. Per Main Street:
The report reveals that during the state’s fiscal year, July 2013 to June 2014, there were a total of 52,374 active cardholders. This included 51,783 qualifying patients and 591 caregivers. 904 dispensary agent cards were issued.
Women comprised approximately 32% of the total qualifying patients and 33% of the total caregivers. Some 4% of patients and 62% of caregivers were authorized to cultivate pot. Men were 72% of the users, and women were 31%. The highest age demographic among men was between the ages of 18 and 30. They represented 32% of all male users, numbering about 9,500. Among women, the largest age demographic was between 51 and 60, numbering about 4,303.
I’m sure marijuana opponents will look at these stats and point out the high number of younger people that are in the program. I would point out to these opponents that younger people are more likely to be open minded about using medical marijuana, and their minds aren’t as saturated with reefer madness compared to some members of older generations. Marijuana is medicine, and is far safer than pharmaceutical drugs, whether opponents want to admit it or not.
On Tuesday morning, some key Republicans and conservative scholars will huddle at the Heritage Foundation to explain how “scientific understanding of the real dangers of marijuana” should chasten the people who want legal weed in their states. The timing is ideal, as the moderate Third Way think tank is just out with a poll showing clear consensus in favor of medical marijuana and narrowly in favor of straight-up legalization.
Third Way’s national poll fielded by Anzalone Liszt Grove in October 2014 found the country equally divided on legalizing recreational marijuana for use by adults, with 50% supporting legalization and 47% opposed to it. There is no such split for medical marijuana, with 78% in favor of allowing individuals to use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it (18% oppose).
The data was collected in two waves, first with a late summer focus group, next with an October poll of 856 registered voters, conducted online. That doesn’t raise any flags; the 50-47 split in favor of legal recreational marijuana is in sync with the 51-47 support level Gallup found this year. When the data was broken down by subgroup, Third Way found that millennials, non-whites, and independents all strongly favored legalization. More than 30 percent of Republicans favored it. And everyone favored medical marijuana. The issue was so promising that Third Way was able to identify a “marijuana middle,” open to some relaxation of the law, if it were explained to them smartly enough.
The focus group found that some of the winningest arguments for marijuana were the ones that appealed to liberty, and to fear of an overreaching government. To wit:
- “Participants simply did not believe that a cancer patient in a state that has legalized medical marijuana would be prosecuted by the federal government,” according to Third Way’s report. (This argument actually cut against the legalization campaign, as voters didn’t expect the state to go after people if the law remained the same.)
- Focus group-ers were swayed by arguments that the states should determine marijuana policies without the feds mucking things up. This put “advocates of a safe haven on the side of public safety—ensuring states can measure outcomes, regulate responsibly, and make sure that businesses play by the rules.”
- Participants needed the issue to be explained to them, but they were sold on the idea that a black market cash-focused marijuana industry was less safe than a legal one that could put its money in banks.
Libertarian and liberal supporters have been warning, for years, that the side effect of draconian pot laws was decreased confidence in law enforcement. If something’s illegal, yet everyone you know can obtain it easily, the mind wanders and contemplates other laws that might not be worth their ink.
But Third Way was an exception to the libertarian foment. In Washington, D.C., where a marijuana measure passed easily, a city with a largely black electorate was sold on the message that the war on drugs had led to mass incarceration, ruined lives, and ineffective policing. Third Way didn’t see that message resonating across America. “Focusing on the War on Drugs as a whole lumps marijuana together with hard drugs like meth, cocaine, and heroin—and that’s the exact opposite argument you want to make with the marijuana middle,” argued Third Way.
Published Tuesday, November 11, 2014 5:32PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 11, 2014 7:09PM EST
Montreal’s first medical marijuana clinic is open for business.
Sante Cannabis is working with a team of physicians to help patients who are eligible get access to medical marijuana.
Though they have five doctors behind the clinic, the College of Physicians isn’t convinced it’s a good idea.
Located at 1239 Amherst St., patients began dropping by the shop Tuesday as the phone rang off the hook.
Tristan Williams is one of those people.
At 24, Williams is a cancer survivor, MS patient, and medical marijuana user.
“I deal with a lot of chronic pain, a lot of chronic depression. But with the medical marijuana it helps to relieve that it puts me at a balance without having my mind go out of there,” he said.
Williams said marijuana gave him back his quality of life, because he felt his regular medications were making him sicker.
“The things I was taking, I can honestly say felt like poison to my body,” he said.
Sante Cannabis doesn’t sell marijuana.
Would-be buyers require a doctor’s referral, and for a $250 annual fee, are then met with one of the clinic’s doctors to see if cannabis can help them with a condition.
They will advise on the compound, as well as where to buy it.
One of the doctors at Sante Cannabis is Marcia Gillman, a palliative care and pain management specialist who found many patients were having bad side effects from prescription drugs.
“Half the time I’m giving the medication and then I’m giving another medication to combat the side effect of the medication they are already taking,” she said.
She found vaporizing marijuana to be more effective.
Many compounds won’t get users high, either.
“I find cannabis interesting because if I can take one medication that could potentially target the pain and nausea, the anxiety, the appetite issues, the sleep issues, I need be able to necessarily get rid of everything else they are on but limit the doses,” she said.
Sante Cannabis is the brainchild of marijuana activist Adam Greenblatt, who says in spite of it being legal to purchase medical marijuana, the process can be complicated.
“Despite the fact that there are 20 companies licenced, not all of them are taking patients,” he said. “Some of them are having stock ruptures every game. They can’t grow enough of the stuff to meet demand.”
Quebec’s College of Physicians, however, warns there should be more study before doctors prescribe cannabis widely.
“We have no safety data, depending on each product available, and no data on cannabis reactions with other drugs patients may use,” said Dr. Yves Robert, secretary of the College of Physicians.
As a patient, Williams said he has no doubt about the efficacy of medical marijuana.
“It will change lives,” he said.
The grass might be greener on the other side of the border for Wildflower Marijuana.
Parksville’s CAO Fred Manson has confirmed the city is “in negotiations” with Wildflower Marijuana, but he insisted nothing has been finalized.
The Vancouver-based company may be setting up a medical pot operation in the heart of Parksville’s industrial park — if they get the green light from Health Canada. Wildflower Marijuana is best known in this area for its recent attempt to set up a medical pot operation near the River’s Edge neighbourhood in Nanoose Bay, just over the municipal border from Parksville. River’s Edge residents organized quickly and loudly to oppose the project.
The company posted a news release on its website Dec. 3 stating “Wildflower Marijuana Inc. is pleased to announce that it has come to terms on an agreement with a local British Columbia municipality to set up a medical marijuana growing facility within its jurisdiction.” Wildflower’s statement didn’t name a specific municipality.
Manson told The NEWS city officials have been in conversation with Wildflower about a medical pot operation for several months.
Wildflower’s news release said that “the city will not only allow for an (medical marijuana grow-op) application within its jurisdiction, but will also provide city-owned land to build the growing facility.”
Manson said, assuming this project goes ahead, the grow operation would be located within a 20-acre parcel of land purchased by the city two years ago for the Englishmen River Water Service that sits behind the city’s public works yard.
He said the size of the operation would be up to Wildflower.
Manson said a medical pot facility comes with economic perks for the city.
“Right now the property is municipally-owned so it’s exempt from all taxation,” said Manson, adding that if a medical marijuana operation were to be built, the value of the land would become taxable, along with all the improvements carried out by Wildflower. “And of course, all the jobs that come along with it.”
Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre declined to comment on the matter.
In September, River’s Edge resident Lehann Wallace, who appears to be leading the movement against Wildflower’s proposal to set up shop near River’s Edge, hand delivered a petition with more than 300 signatures on it to Regional District of Nanaimo officials. The River’s Edge community voiced concerns over the facility’s access points increasing traffic in the otherwise private neighbourhood, aquifer issues, groundwater contamination, environmental sustainability and security issues.
RDN director Joe Stanhope, who represents the area, pledged his support to the River’s Edge residents and wrote a letter to Health Canada opposing the company’s intentions.
Manson said the negative media attention drummed up by the River’s Edge community “had something to do with” the city’s interest in Wildflower’s project.
Wildflower Marijuana CEO William MacLean told The NEWS Saturday morning that the company was “actively pursued” by the municipality.
“It was based on them (Parksville) contacting us (Wildflower) to explore possibilities,” said MacLean from Vancouver. “We are very excited about what we have on the go right now.”
MacLean confirmed Wildflower Marijuana has not revoked any of their Health Canada licence applications, including the River’s Edge one.
He said a third application for the Parksville location has not yet been submitted to Health Canada, but “terms have been agreed upon” between the company and the city. He said there are “small hoops” that need to be jumped through before a submission will be made.
Health Canada has 14 licensed producers who are authorized to produce and sell dried marijuana in Canada. Wildflower Marijuana is not currently one of them.
It is unclear whether Wildflower Marijuana is able to transfer its application for the Parksville location from the River’s Edge location, or if it is required to submit a new application.
When Elaine Alec started door knocking in her First Nation community to ask families and respected elders if they would approve of an on-reserve medical marijuana grow-op, she braced herself for the worst.
“I was completely surprised that people would get a look of thought on their faces and were thinking about it. They would say, ‘I think that’s a good idea.”‘
Now, the band’s proposal to build a medical pot facility is moving forward with substantial community support as the First Nation looks at growing a cannabis strain that caters specifically to health conditions afflicting indigenous populations.
If members approve the plan, the band would become the first aboriginal producer to become federally licensed in Western Canada, paving the way for what its business partner hopes will become a cross-country model.
The band’s development corporation signed a letter of intent to build the facility with cannabis producer Kaneh Bosm BioTechnology in September and held its first community information session last month.
First Nations have more chronic disease
Alec, who sits on Kaneh Bosm BioTechnology’s advisory board, said the company is currently testing a marijuana strain in topical solutions, edibles and teas for certain diseases, she said.
“When you start looking at the differences between the current health of First Nations people in Canada and the current health of the general population in Canada, our diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic disease and auto-immune disease rates are higher,” she said.
“The more people I’ve talked to, the more I’ve realized that there are a lot of community members using medical marijuana and they’re actually travelling to places like Vancouver to get the oils and stuff.”
Alec has arthritis and fibromyalgia, and said many First Nations people suffer with pain in silence, unable to afford high-quality prescription drugs.
“So we’re given the generic, lesser-quality stuff that makes us sick instead of having access to the higher-end injection-type drugs that would actually help,” she said.
“I’ve been in the hospital, I’ve been on morphine, I’ve been on prescription pills, gone into depression, been sick from some of the medication, so I know what it’s like.
“What we’re looking at is a strain that will help with inflammatory disease — specifically arthritis — with topical solutions and likely tablets.”
The proposed $10 million production facility, to be rolled out in three phases, has big potential to create jobs and financial gain for the band of about 900, she said.
Plans to expand to other First Nations
Kaneh Bosm BioTechnology president Michael Martinz said he first approached the band in August of this year, and found an ideal property for the planned 9,300-square-metre production space. The completed facility would be capable of producing up to seven tons of cannabis per year.
“Our corporate vision was always to have a facility in the Okanagan using greenhouses and the sun as our source of the plant’s power,” he said.
“It is our understanding, and that is also supported by the law firm that we just brought on to guide us through this process, that we are the first (licensed producer) to come forward with a joint venture between a First Nation and a corporation.”
Martinz said the company plans to grow across the country and he has already been approached by other First Nations in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. expressing interest in similar projects.
He said he believes a First Nations model will give the company a “head start” in terms of a land base if commercial cannabis starts to pop up in Canada.
Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger said a majority members are on board with the plan so far, but the nation must still have a referendum before pursuing licensing through Health Canada.
There are concerns in the community around security and commercialization, and much more consultation and work ahead, but if all goes smoothly construction could start as soon as April 2015.
“I’m excited to see how far this goes and very proud of our community for taking bold steps,” Kruger said.
“We plan to set the standard high and be very successful at what we do.”
With news that Hydropothecary of Gatineau has acquired a licence to produce medical marijuana, the National Capital Region now appears to have plenty of future supply.
Earlier this month, the licence of Tweed Marijuana of Smiths Falls to grow and sell medical weed was extended another year. The licence allows Tweed to sell up to 3,500 kilograms — the firm’s current annual capacity.
Hydropothecary hasn’t yet received Health Canada’s permission to actually sell weed — that will have to wait for tests to make sure the quality is up to inspectors’ standards.
On this front, the founders of this 17-month-old firm appear to have no doubts. “There is still very large demand for product,” says Hydropothecary co-founder Adam Miron, “especially quality product.”
Indeed, the first thing you notice about the company’s website is the pricing attached to four main strains of marijuana. Assuming Hydropothecary secures its licence to sell, perhaps as early as next month, it will charge customers anywhere between $26 and $32 per gram.
That’s more than double the typical rates offered by the other 13 firms that have so far won approval from Health Canada to sell the product under a new legal regime that came into effect April 1, 2014. Licensed home growers, the former bedrock of the industry, made way for commercial growers with secure, regulated facilities.
No one really knows how quickly the market for medicinal weed will develop — and estimates haven’t been helped by the bottlenecks that have emerged as demand from users has overwhelmed what’s available. Nevertheless, this does suggest the number of potential patients using medical weed is well in excess of the roughly 40,000 who used it when the industry changed the rules last year.
Miron says his firm will justify its richer prices on the basis of “significantly better customer service”. This starts with a promise to deliver. “So many people to date have been told, ‘We’re out of stock’,” he notes. “This is medicine. We will guarantee supply.”
How will Hydropothecary accomplish this? When a patient registers for marijuana, Miron says, the firm will set aside the amount required.
Miron adds that the company will also offer round-the-clock service.
The co-founders — who happen to be brothers-in-law — offer contrasting backgrounds.
Sébastien St. Louis, the CEO, is the financial brains of the operation — with an MBA from the Université du Québec à Montréal, and stints with the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Export Development Corp. He was most recently president of Shield Real Estate Investments, which manages residential properties in the Ottawa area.
Miron’s business history tracks more to media and politics. He was a Liberal campaign manager during the 2008 federal election and is the chief information officer of iPolitics.ca — an online newspaper in Ottawa. He is also president of 7 a.m. Media Group.
Unlike Tweed, whose shares trade on the TSX Venture Exchange, Hydropothecary is a private firm.
“The long-term plan is to go public,” says Miron, thought it’s obviously early to say just how it intends to get there. The source of the firm’s current capital is unclear for the moment, though Miron confirmed that figures from Toronto’s financial community on Bay Street have invested. More will surely be required.
The early stages of this developing industry have consumed a lot of capital.
Tweed, for instance, raised $15 million last May through the sale of 4.7 million shares. It has used some of the proceeds to expand capacity and to acquire a separate operation, now known as Tweed Farms. The company recently reported a net quarterly loss of $2.4 million for its quarter ended Sept. 30, at which point it had $8.4 million cash on hand.
“Tweed has done a lot of things right,” Miron says. “They’ve done an incredible job getting their name out there.”
You get the idea that Miron and his brother-in-law have plans to do even better — at the premium end of the market.
First, let’s recap how medical marijuana in Washington got so screwed up:
- State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, sponsors SB 5073 in 2011. Bill would create regulated medical marijuana system.
- It passes Legislature.
- (Could be No. 2) Feds threaten to arrest everyone in state for conspiracy to distribute or profit from illegal drugs sales.
- Then-governor Chris Gregoire freaks out.
- Then-governor Christine Gregoire scratches out just enough of the law to unintentionally make selling marijuana through “dispensaries” supported by “collectives” a vaguely state-legal enterprise.
- Entrepreneurs begin growing marijuana in collectives and selling it to anyone who can get a medical card or pretend to have a medical card or just wants to have a medical card.
- Taking matters into their own hands, voters run an end-game and legalize it.
That pretty much catches us up to today’s screwed-up medical marijuana scene, which, frankly, isn’t all that bad if you’re in favor of full legalization … but hold on! There’s a simple fix that could be reality soonish.
What should we do now? What are our options?
Intensify the re-criminalization of all marijuana grown and sold outside of Washington’s heavily regulated, heavily taxed and semi-stymied recreational system? Attempt to channel every puff/ingestion of medical marijuana through that I-502 system? Fire up the engines in our war on marijuana machine? Get out the batons and paddy wagons?
Or, simply legalize homegrown cannabis?
Wait, that’s too much. Hold the phone. How can THAT help medical marijuana patients?
Enter Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and the new proposal she has for the 2015 Legislature. A proposal that is, I think, a simple and elegant.
“It’s different,” she said. “I think it’s very rational. I think it’s simple. It’s clean and coherent, and it can move us away from the underground, the black market, the gray market and get real patients the protection they need.”
The Kohl-Welles proposal doesn’t have a bill number yet, but she said she’ll be introducing it to the Legislature shortly before the session begins on Jan. 12.
Here are the key points (still in draft language), as sent to me by her staff:
- All users of marijuana, recreational or medical, may grow marijuana for their personal use. People who wish to grow marijuana must be 21 years of age or older and may only grow up to six plants.
- People who grow marijuana at home must do so in their own domicile and no more than one home grow is permitted per residence.
- People who grow marijuana may share up to one ounce of marijuana with another person who is 21 years of age or older. Sharing must be done without compensation; marijuana may not be sold nor may the grower accept cash donations for the product.
- Possession limits will be modified to reflect the larger amount of marijuana that may be produced by six plants. Eight ounces of marijuana would be permitted in the person’s domicile where the plants are grown and the grower may not transport more than one ounce of marijuana.
- Hash oil may not be produced by anyone without a license.
She emphasized that home-growing and the ability to share/give up to an ounce by themselves aren’t a total fix. But, allowing only six plants per person would have the added benefit of giving law enforcement a simple rule to go by: Six plants or fewer per household, good. Anything more, “Book ‘em, Danno.”
“Most of us understand, we do believe, those of us that are law enforcement executives, that the war on drugs, the 1980 drug policies, was a miserable failure, there’s no doubt about that,” Houston Police Chief Charles McLelland said to Dean Becker, host of “Cultural Baggage,” a radio show focused on the war on drugs.
There are several other key moving parts in her proposal. Chief among them is reliance on access to tax-free medical marijuana through the I-502 system for medical patients who can’t (because of illness, say) or don’t want to undertake the challenge of growing a medically effective strain of cannabis.
That tax-free status could be achieved, in her early proposal, through untaxed low-THC (but high in other palliative cannabinoids) strains and/or by the Department of Health setting up simple rules to validate a patient’s medical-need status.
Doctors or other healthcare professionals would not write prescriptions or medical cards for marijuana. They would simply declare their patient’s medical condition to the Department of Health, which would then give an ID to the patient. The ID would absolve the patient from state taxes (oh, dream of dreams), and also provide young patients between 18 and 21 access to medical cannabis.
Kohl-Welles points out that under the current non-law, 18 to 21 year olds can get a medical card to grow up to 15 plants and also be declared a “designated provider” and give/sell marijuana to patients.
Must. Solve. Now.
“If we don’t do this, it’s going to exacerbate the situation with the black market, gray market,” Kohl-Welles said. “People are growing as though they are a qualified patient or a designated provider, with very large, liberal amounts allowable … the highest amounts in the country.”
“We would be eventually eliminating the need for medical marijuana system. Right now, what’s so problematic — whether we’re talking about homegrown, the collective gardens, the dispensaries, whatever the case is — we’ve got people who have medical authorizations who should not have them. … there’s a lot of fraud going on from what I understand, there’s a lot of abuse going on.”
The law itself would require nuance and so forth, but the punchline is liberalization not criminalization. And it’s a much better proposal than what failed to pass last year in the Legislature — HB 5887, which would have created yet another big-government, punitive and unenforceable system (unenforceable, that is, if you don’t want to live in a police state) and was roundly hated by all medical marijuana groups.
“If we do not allow home-grows, we’re going continue with what we have, which I think is way overboard and undermining the I-502 stores. And, my concern is with the patient’s access to quality and reliability and not for people to become rich having a collective garden and selling it.”
You have a representative in state government — call him/her and tell her/him to get behind this soon-to-be bill.
Most Wyoming residents say they’re in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical, but not recreational, use according to a University of Wyoming poll.
The poll, which included 768 residents statewide and was released Wednesday, found 72 percent of respondents support marijuana use if it is prescribed by a physician, but only 35 percent support its recreational use.
Marijuana legalization measures were passed by voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., in November, and marijuana use has been legal in neighboring Colorado since 2012, but, “it appears that a similar movement in Wyoming would be unsuccessful,” said Jim King, political science professor and co-director of the survey.
Support for recreational marijuana has increased slightly since a 2000 University of Wyoming poll, which found that 23 percent of residents were in favor.
“There has been a bit of a shift in public opinion on this aspect of the marijuana debate,” King said. “On the other hand, the 2000 and 2014 surveys have the same proportion of Wyoming residents, 72 percent, accepting medical marijuana use.”
The poll also found 62 percent of residents were in favor of reducing penalties for marijuana possession and not having jail sentences while 32 percent support jail sentences.