Changes will see grow-op licenses revoked, prices more than double

thumb Photo_Marijuana400x300Calgary users and growers of medicinal marijuana are predicting upcoming changes to Ottawa's pot policy, which will force some patients to access weed illegally.

On March 31, 2014, Canada's new marijuana policy will take away existing licenses that give patients the right to grow their own pot.

The changes will also affect larger commercial growers, which are projected to increase prices from $4 per gram to $8.80 per gram.

The new policy, laid out in Health Canada's Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, or MMPR, replaces the existing program, called the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, or MMAR.

Designated Growers Losing Their Licenses

Calgarian Grant Cluff lives with multiple sclerosis and for years has had to deal with muscle buckling and spasms. His constant pain from MS forced the former high school history teacher to retire.

Produced by Kyle Napier

Cluff has been legally growing his medicinal marijuana since 2001, but will lose his license with the new changes.

"Only through growing can I afford to reap the benefits of this plan," Cluff says.

Prior to being licensed, he had been prescribed "a cocktail of drugs," which he says damaged his body and drove him to depression – and almost suicide.

"Baclofen weakens the muscles but does control spasms," Cluff says. "It's a trade-off, whereas I don't have to make that trade-off when I use marijuana.

"The fact is that I don't need other drugs, mostly because the marijuana is all-inclusive. It handles just about all of my ailments."

Since 2001, Cluff has been able to consume an ounce of home-grown marijuana daily to treat his symptoms. Lately, he has been juicing the leaves with raw carrots, which he says has minimal cognitive effects, but still treats his physical symptoms.

Having invested thousands of dollars on his hydroponic system, Cluff is concerned he will be left with the expensive equipment, but no legal garden.

"If those changes do happen, it's going to drive people like myself and others into clandestine (transactions) – because nobody can afford $8 a gram."

Health Canada Defends Decision While Calgary MP Remains Silent

Health Canada manages Canada's medicinal marijuana programs.

In August of 2012, a report by Health Canada stated there were roughly 22,000 Canadians with licenses to consume medicinal marijuana. Of these users, 80 per cent possessed designated licenses to grow.

Stephane Shank, a media relations officer for Health Canada, said the rationale for collapsing the program is laid out in a government report. In it, Health Canada highlighted concerns raised by law enforcement and fire officials who have connected home-based grow operations to increased potential for house fires, mould, illicit selling and home invasions.

The document did not directly address what growers like Cluff are supposed to do with their medicinal marijuana garden equipment once the current program is shelved.

In a telephone interview, Shank responded, "The department can't address that because it's not in Health Canada's mandate to tell those individuals what to do.

"The equipment belongs to individuals, and it's up to them what they do with it."

Conservative Member of Parliament, Deepak Obhrai, was contacted twice by the Calgary Journal about his government's decision to take away growing privileges from people in his constituency, such as Grant Cluff. Obhrai declined to comment.

Medicinal User Frustrated With Jump in Price

Since 2001, Calgarian Fred Bell has been ordering his medicinal pot online through groups like the BC Compassion Club Society and designated growers in Calgary.

marijuanaSince 2001, Canada has allowed certain patients with debilitating conditions to purchase, use and grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. On April 1, 2014, many of these patients will lose access to sustainable means to this medication.



Photo courtesy of Scott Beale/Flickr.com
He uses marijuana to treat irreparable nerve and muscle damage to his hip that will likely leave him on crutches for the rest of his life. Without medication, Bell says he endures constant pain and experiences occasional leg seizures.

Bell predicts two things will happen once the new rules come into effect — people will resort to illegal means to access marijuana, or they will return to drugstore pharmaceuticals.

"If they charged $8.80 a gram, I can almost 100 per cent guarantee the people on this program are either going to continue their grow without legal representation, or they're going to go the way of pills."

Under the new policy, Bell predicts he'll have to resort to once again using pills that he insists damaged his organs and led to surgeries.

"I'm going to have to go with what worked before, which was being drugged out of my head, because it kills the pain," Bell says.

"I don't want to be back on those pills."

The new medicinal marijuana policies are expected to roll out in April, 2014.

Editor's Note: The Calgary Journal contacted Grant Cluff's member of parliament, Deepak Obhrai, twice, to speak towards what Cluff is expected to do with his expensive equipment. Both attempts to allow him to provide a voice to the issue have been refused.

Correction: This article has been updated to indicate the price changes are based on projections.

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Embarrased to be Canadian 16.03.2014 19:38  
MMAR Program   March 31 is a sad day for all MMAR patients in Canada. It sickens me to be Canadian at this time, The current government should be thrown out, in my opinion. They have shown to interest in letting the people help themselves, and are simply looking for another cash grab, creating another two tiered system. They state medical marijuana should be treated like any other pharmaceutical, but they wont cover the costs of medical marijuana like any other med through medicare, neither will WCB. its a cash grab. Makes me sick.  
   
       
Antithesis 19.11.2013 21:24  
GREED   First the government allows a the clientele to emerge, and then they shut down the producers and open up shop for Prairie Plant Systems. Does this stink of cronyism and monopoly to you? You have a government that was against drugs for the longest time, and then they allow it to the sick and dying, and now they are getting all the money from it. This Canadian government is a plutocracy. The Earth belongs to the people. The water belongs to the people. The air, the plants, and the animals belong to the people. Cannabis belongs to the people. There is no reason, other than profit, that cannabis needs to be regulated, or taken hostage, by this totalitarian government. I say strip the elitist from their powers and let them labor for once in their lives.  
   
       
Marilyn Houghton 18.02.2014 03:56  
Greed   Antithesis said :
First the government allows a the clientele to emerge, and then they shut down the producers and open up shop for Prairie Plant Systems. Does this stink of cronyism and monopoly to you? You have a government that was against drugs for the longest time, and then they allow it to the sick and dying, and now they are getting all the money from it. This Canadian government is a plutocracy. The Earth belongs to the people. The water belongs to the people. The air, the plants, and the animals belong to the people. Cannabis belongs to the people. There is no reason, other than profit, that cannabis needs to be regulated, or taken hostage, by this totalitarian government. I say strip the elitist from their powers and let them labor for once in their lives.
 
   
       
Mike Harris 03.08.2013 12:38  
Mummified canadian harper and cohorts   I once had a Chinese doctor of medicine in Georgetown, ON. He said that due to multiple conditions and accidents that I had endured over the course of time, (2 year misdiagnosis of a crushed and degenerative lower back situation) that required a spinal discotomy in 1982 (work related accident in 1979) of which it took me nearly 2 years to be able to learn to walk again while having to care for my 2 year old daughter. After separating from my daughters mother in 1983. I left AB and returned to my home town in Ontario to be diagnose with Ankylosing Spondiltis and was put through a barrage of Drug and Physiotherapy regimes.

With no positive effect and having to return to the Arthritic and Orthapaedic Hospital in Toronto for 2 weeks 1985, it was found that the medications completely ruined my stomach linings.

Since that time I talked with my new family doctor in Guelph, ON and (20 years my junior) and due to insufficient evidence he would not prescribe. Harper, I wish you would feel it
 
   
       
John Max 24.07.2013 05:31  
Cannnabis cures!!! Wake up , free humanity!   The most abusive thing is denying a public proper access to this life saving plant.  
   
       
Marilyn Houghton 18.02.2014 04:10  
Cannabis cures   Abusive? It is life threatening for many! Denying proper access could allow people to die making the people responsible for denial guilty of at least manslaughter.Ithink.  
   
       
CharlieR 16.06.2013 06:02  
Medical Cannabis patients being thrown under the bus!   Prices are not set to only double, patients have been growing their own for practically NOTHING. Purchasing from Clubs prices will double, but that is only for the 20% that are happy to and can afford to purchase their meds. Most cannot afford to purchase at all since they are on disability or are unemployed due to their illnesses. So, ultimately this 'new plan' was just to appease the police...so they will still have their illegal market to keep them employed. Health Canada should be inspecting the grows or they could easily write into the new program that all 'home grows' are to be inspected by the By-Law Dept for electrical safety and/or notify the local OPP detachment to inspect for number of plants. BUT, these people also need to be EDUCATED first on what is an overage. For instance, when someone is growing from seed, and they are allowed 20 plants on their licence, that means they have to start double that number, in hopes of getting 20 FEMALE plants to maturity.  
   
       
Marilyn Houghton 18.02.2014 04:35  
Under the bus   Health Canada should write into new program that 'home grows' be inspected for electrical safety and local O>P>P> detachment to inspect for number of plants once educated. This would help weed out people using system for illegal purposes as well.  
   
       
rejean gauthier 06.05.2013 01:46  
health canada cannabis program   i have full time migrains from morning to when i go to sleep ,i was in a car crash bad knee ,and back pains ,was on mophine for two and ahalf years , chemecal pills that only add to my dayly pain plus all the side efexs,stopped it all ,i got tyered playing lab rat ,i was at the point to end my life a life in full time pain is no life ,cannabis buds kill the pain 100% better then morphine .i would take morphine for about aweek then i had to stop my hart couldn t take it ,then i d stop for a week and start again.the more you use it the less it helps for the pain. i asked my doc to get my cannabis growers card he said yes .i asked what kind is the the best for me .i can t realy say witch is best for your pain its up to you find what kind is best for you ."there are 100s of cannabis kinds" that means i have to buy seeds off the net grow them "3 -6 months to grow from seed to buds" try and see what is best for me . i can t pay for healths canada cannabis.i m on willfair 386.00$ a month  
   
       
sheila 19.04.2013 16:29  
james   james.

a) a 5g a day license would actually be less than 20 plants
b) only 20% use designated growers and not all of that 20% are abusing the system. 80% of personal use licensees grow their own and sure, likely SOME of them are also abusing the system too...however, all of the abusers combined are a drop in the bucket of the cannabis black market, which has always been there & always will be until cannabis is legalized.
 
   
       
 

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