Archive for the ‘Medical Marijuana Canada’ category

Feds Appeal Medical Marijuana Injunction

April 8th, 2014

The federal government will appeal a March 21 court injunction that lets authorized patients temporarily keep growing their own medical marijuana past April 1, when the old system was to be outlawed.

The move by Health Canada keeps thousands of medical marijuana users off balance as to how long they can continue home growing under personal production licences.

They had been under a federal directive to stop growing, destroy any unused pot and confirm in writing by April 30 they had done so or face potential police enforcement.

Users behind a constitutional challenge of the new medical marijuana rules fear higher prices and lower quality pot under the new system of regulated commercial producers.

It’s unclear how quickly an appeal of the injunction will be heard, but the broader case is expected to go to trial sometime this year.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Monday she is working with organizations of health professionals to address their concerns about the lack of dosage guidelines and appropriate health cautions for medical marijuana use.

“They want clearer guidance on safety and effectiveness and want authorizations to be monitored,” Ambrose said.

She said it’s expected new measures and direction on dosage, educational materials and increased oversight will cut the risk of patients being harmed by being over-prescribed medical pot.

“I want to emphasize that marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada.  Health Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes.”

Regulators will get data from licensed producers on how much pot each doctor prescribes to patients.

Youth are especially susceptible to potential risks from marijuana use, according to Health Canada, which lists damage to mental function and mental health, including psychosis and schizophrenia.

Sensible BC is planning an April 1 day of protest against the medical marijuana changes.

Organizer Dana Larsen welcomed Ottawa’s move to provide more information on marijuana to doctors and nurses, but remained sharply critical of the planned shift to commercial production.

“Minister Ambrose still has not addressed the fact that the new regulations are going to price thousands of patients out of the market for their medicine.”

Various municipalities opposed the outgoing system of letting users grow their own pot or have other designated growers do it for them, citing fire and other safety risks.

The injunction doesn’t stop the launch of new commercial pot producers, but it may reduce the initial size of their market if many users don’t have to start buying from them.

Medical marijuana users can grow at home, for now

March 21st, 2014

A Federal Court judge in Vancouver has granted a last-minute reprieve for medical marijuana users who say they need to be able to grow their own pot at home.

On Friday morning, the judge granted an injunction allowing those who have a personal production licence to grow medical marijuana to continue for now, pending the outcome of a trial to be held at a later date.

Those with an authorization to possess medical marijuana will also be allowed to continue to do so under the injunction, though they will only be permitted to hold up to 150 grams.

Without the injunction, Health Canada’s new laws, which go into effect April 1, would end the home production of medical marijuana.

Instead, all those using medical marijuana would have to purchase it from large-scale commercial facilities that are being set up around the country.

Patients have voiced concern about the cost and the quality of the product they will be able to obtain under the new system.

Abbotsford, B.C., lawyer John Conroy was in court this week seeking the interim injunction for growers.

Conroy alleges that Health Canada’s pronouncements are a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Earlier this week, Conroy argued that the new rules create an intractable dilemma for patients.

“If the patient can’t afford the medicine at the prices under the program that’s being produced, then they’re placed in a position where they have to choose between their liberty and their health,” Conroy said.

Without the injunction, patients would have to destroy their plants before April 1 and send notification to Health Canada by April 30 stating that they’ve stopped production and destroyed their plants, or law enforcement would be notified.

The federal government argued in its statement of defence that grow-ops in houses lead to safety problems, such as fire hazards and mould.

The government also argued that home-based grow-ops put people at risk of home invasions — meaning attempted robberies like the one this past weekend

Source: CBC

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/medical-marijuana-users-can-grow-at-home-for-now-1.2581742

Canada Rolls Out a ‘$1 Billion’ MMJ Industry

October 3rd, 2013

Marijuana was Canada’s newest mail-order product Tuesday, the inaugural day of a controlled medical marijuana industry that is expected to grow to more than $1 billion dollars within 10 years. But even as the new system privatizes distribution, critics fear regulation under the conservative-led government will make it harder for patients to get access to the drug.

In Canada, medical marijuana has been legal but highly regulated for more than a decade. Patients with doctor approval could grow or have someone else grow small quantities or request limited amounts from Health Canada, the national healthcare department.

But the conservative-led government voted earlier this year to effectively scrap that system in favor of a private—but also strictly regulated—system, targeting the flow of legal marijuana into the black market and shedding Health Canada’s role in marijuana production. Health Canada will phase out the current system, under which it sells registered users marijuana grown by Prairie Plant Systems, by the end of March.

Instead, starting Tuesday, medical marijuana users, or aspiring users, can send in an application directly to sanctioned corporate producers, along with a doctor’s note (or in some cases, a nurse’s note). If approved, they can place an order, pay the market price (the black market price is about $10 a gram; officials say the medical marijuana price will drop below that within a year), and wait for the secure courier to deliver their weed.

There are nearly 40,000 people registered to use the drug under the current system in a country with a tenth the population of the U.S., and the government expects that number to balloon—up to 450,000 by 2024—and fuel what could become a $1.3 billion domestic pot industry. But the government expects that the privatized system, with only heavily-vetted producers (so far there are two licensed distributors, of at least 156 applications), will help ensure a higher level of oversight.

“We’re fairly confident that we’ll have a healthy commercial industry in time,” Sophie Galarneau, a senior official with Health Canada, told the Canadian Press. “It’s a whole other ball game.”

The new regulations have failed to win over advocates for legalized marijuana, who have faced strong resistance from the conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In November, even as two states in the United States voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the Harper government passed strict minimum penalties for people who grow as few as six marijuana plants.

“They treat pot like it’s plutonium,” says Blair Longley, head of the single-issue Marijuana Party that fielded five candidates in the 2011 parliamentary elections. Speaking to TIME, Longley says he’s concerned the market-based system, which nixes the right to cheaply grow marijuana at home, will make marijuana less affordable for patients.

“We always knew that marijuana would get legalized in the worst possible way. It’s not a surprise that that’s what’s happening,” Longley says.

Undeterred, potential growers are lining up to be licensed in the new system, including the conditional owners of a former Hershey’s chocolate factory.

“The opportunity in the industry is significant,” Eric Nash, a licensed grower in the past who’s planning to enter the new market, told the Canadian Press. “We’ll see a lot of moving and shaking.”

Source: Time Magazine (US)
Author: Noah Rayman
Published: October 2, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Time Inc.
Contact: letters@time.com
Website: http://www.time.com/time/

Canada’s new Medical Marijuana rules cut Homegrowers, Pharmacists Out

September 18th, 2013

After two years of study and discussion, the federal government has finalized new rules for medical marijuana and granted a reprieve to pharmacists who opposed the rules in their draft form.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq rolled out the regulations today for formal publication in the Canada Gazette on Wednesday.

Under the new regime, the government will no longer produce or distribute medical pot and medical marijuana users will no longer be allowed to grow the product at home.

Health Canada said since the medical marijuana program was introduced in 2001, it has expanded to 30,000 people from the original 500 authorized to use the product.

“This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” the department said in a news release.

“Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”

Under the new regulations, the government will allow patients to buy prescribed amounts only from licensed growers who will be required to meet strict conditions.

In previous versions of the regulations, pharmacies were to distribute the product just like other medications, provoking concern from pharmacists, who expressed concerns about dispensing a product without sufficient research. They also cited security concerns.

The final version removes the pharmacists from the loop, leaving patients to rely on mail order for their medical marijuana.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said in a statement.

“These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

She used similar reasoning last week when she introduced new hurdles for the creation of supervised drug-injection sites in response to a court ruling.

Physicians and pharmacists alike questioned the regulatory changes, saying there is little evidence that medical marijuana is either effective or safe.

The umbrella group representing the country’s colleges of physicians and surgeons said the changes won’t protect people.

“We believe that the new federal medical marijuana regulations put patients and the general public at risk,” Dr. Rocco Gerace, president of the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, said in a statement.

“Physicians should not be asked to prescribe or dispense substances or treatments for which there is little or no evidence of clinical efficacy or safety.”

In December, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Anna Reid, described the proposed marijuana rules as “akin to asking doctors to write prescriptions while blindfolded.”

“Not only does prescribing drugs that haven’t been clinically tested fly in the face of medical training and ethics, but marijuana’s potential benefits and adverse effects have not been rigorously tested.”

The Canadian Pharmacists Association responded in February to a set of draft rules.

“There is little information available on safety, effectiveness, dosage, drug interactions or long-term health risks,” the association said in its letter to Health Canada.

“Pharmacists, physicians and nurse practitioners need evidence-based information to support safe and effective prescribing and dispensing of (medical marijuana).”

The association said it didn’t know how many pharmacies would be willing to participate a revamped system.

“While the distribution process would be regulated, there remains the concern with pharmacists dispensing a product that does not have adequate safety and effectiveness evidence. In addition, the potential security risks to pharmacies due to robberies would need to be considered.”

Could Pot Stop This Baby’s Seizures?

July 22nd, 2013

Toronto parents struggling with baby Kaitlyn’s Dravet syndrome call for clinical trials here after miraculous results in Colorado.

Kaitlyn Pogson has lived through more seizures than calendar months.

The 9-month-old’s epilepsy sends her tiny body into convulsions that last up to an hour.  Right now they happen every three days, but as she grows the seizures will become more frequent – potentially topping 300 per week.

That’s one every 34 minutes.

Every time she has a seizure, Kaitlyn’s parents, Barry and Shannon, call 911 and take her to the emergency room, where doctors give her antiseizure drugs that don’t work.  It’s a frighteningly repetitive routine.

Kaitlyn’s condition is so severe they have a special name for it: Dravet syndrome.  Not only does it grow worse over time, it’s notoriously resistant to traditional medication.

But a growing number of doctors and families with Dravet say they’ve stumbled upon a miracle drug: marijuana.

“Kate is on morphine and three other drugs not normally given to children,” and they’re not working, Barry said.  “Rules are already being broken.  So why not this one?”

Dravet syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy ( SMEI ), is a catastrophic form of epilepsy that occurs in one in every 30,000 births.  Besides leading to developmental delays, the syndrome is also associated with higher rates of sudden unexplained death.

When Kaitlyn had her first seizure at barely 2 months old, Barry didn’t even know what a seizure looked like.  Now, between hospital visits and work, he’s been researching online and discovered the story of a little girl in Colorado who was able to reduce her seizures by more than 99 per cent.

With a small dose of marijuana extract administered orally three times a day, little Charlotte went from being “flaccid, lying in her mothers arms and unresponsive,” to a walking, talking little girl, said Dr.  Alan Shackelford, who oversaw her treatment.

“The response was instantaneous,” Shackelford told the Star by telephone.  “After the first dose, the seizures stopped =C2=85 and she didn’t suffer a seizure for seven days.”

Charlotte now suffers one seizure every other week, Shackelford says, “a remarkable and heretofore unprecedented change.”

The key is a strain of marijuana that is high in the active substance Cannabidiol ( CBD ) but very low in THC, the chemical that gets you high.

Shackelford says Colorado’s liberal marijuana laws allow doctors like him to perform “valid observational study” and publish their results.  But federal regulations are still formidable barriers for any doctor to undertake formal clinical trials with a Schedule 1 controlled substance like cannabis.

“We need to study this to know what’s going on, what dosages work best and develop treatment for children and adults alike,” said Shackelford.

At New York University, Dr.  Orrin Devinsky has just received FDA approval for a clinical trial to study the safety and tolerability of CBD in children with epilepsy.

“At this point, I think we really lack much data,” said Devinsky, who points to promising results in animals, but says the real push came from the anecdotal evidence provided by parents in Colorado.

“I’ve spoken with these parents, and I think they’re solid, good, loving parents, who’ve had very good experiences.  Whether this will be borne out by scientific studies is uncertain,” he said.

If the trials go perfectly and there are no setbacks, Devinsky estimates that CBD could be approved in the U.S.  in two to three years.

In that case, parents from across the country – whether in pot-friendly Colorado or pot-hostile Texas – would have access to the drug.

But in Canada, despite our relatively liberal medical marijuana laws, there still isn’t a single trial or study taking place on the use of high-CBD marijuana for juvenile epilepsy.

Health Canada rules allow anyone suffering from epileptic seizures to apply for a licence to possess marijuana for medical purposes.  With that licence, you can also apply to grow your own marijuana.

The problem for the Pogsons is that the marijuana available in Canada has far too little CBD and too much THC to treat an infant like Kaitlyn.

“CBD is very difficult to procure.  It’s a freak form of marijuana,” said Barry.  “You can’t import it to Canada.”

The Pogsons have started an online petition calling on Health Canada to allow CBD into the country and to sponsor medical trials to study CBD’s benefits and the appropriate dosages.

“There isn’t really any other solid hope for a treatment out there,” said Barry.  “All the drugs either don’t work, or start out working and then stop.”

In the past few months, the Pogsons moved out of their new house near Oshawa and into a condo downtown, to be closer to the Hospital for Sick Children.  They take shifts watching over Kaitlyn while she sleeps, for fear of a nocturnal seizure.  They’re exhausted, irritable and have very little hope things will improve in the near future if they can’t somehow bring CBD into the country.

“This could be what she needs,” Barry said.

Medical marijuana without the high

Marijuana growers in Colorado have developed a special strain of pot with very little THC – the chemical that gets you high – and very high Cannabidiol ( CBD ), the component believed to reduce seizures.  They’ve dubbed it “Charlotte’s Web” in honour of their first patient.

In a video detailing Charlotte’s turnaround, grower Josh Stanley says the strain, which has only 0.5 per cent THC and 17 per cent CBD, is “the future of medical marijuana.”

A similar strain is being developed in Israel, says Dr.  Alan Shackelford, who hopes to secure funding to conduct clinical trials there.

GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK is developing a CBD medication to treat epilepsy.  The company, which specializes in drugs made from cannabinoids, has a spray that contains a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC content that’s currently available to multiple sclerosis patients in Canada and holds high hopes for a future CBD-heavy medication.

“There’s been some very promising preclinical work,” said company spokesman Mark Rogerson.  “We think that there is definitely scope for clinical trials for a product like this.”

Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The Toronto Star
Contact: lettertoed@thestar.ca
Website: http://www.thestar.com/
Author: Marco Chown Oved

Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations

July 12th, 2013

( Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was submitted by Leona Aglukkaq, federal minister of health )

While the courts have said Canadians must have reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, the Government of Canada believes this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety.

On June 10, the Government of Canada announced the new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations ( MMPR ). These regulations are intended to provide reasonable access for those Canadians who need marijuana for medical purposes while protecting public safety.

When the Marijuana Medical Access Program was introduced in 2001 in response to the court decision, the number of people authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes stood at less than 500.

Over the years that number has grown to more than 30,000. As a result, costs to taxpayers have continued to climb as Health Canada heavily subsidizes the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.

As well, under the current program, Canadians can apply to grow marijuana for medical purposes in private homes or buy from Health Canada. The ability for individuals to produce marijuana in private homes has added to public health, safety and security risks as criminal elements have abused the system.

The government’s goal is to treat dried marijuana as much as possible like other narcotics used for medical purposes under the MMPR by creating conditions for a new, commercial industry that will be responsible for its production and distribution. Health Canada will return to its traditional role as a regulator.

Licensed producers will provide access to quality-controlled marijuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions, to those Canadians who need it, while strengthening the safety of Canadian communities. In line with other controlled substances, personal and designated production will be phased out. This will reduce the health and safety risks, such as fire and toxic mould hazards, to individuals and to the Canadian public, while allowing for a quality-controlled and more secure product for medical use.

Under the new regulations, licensed producers will have to meet extensive security and quality control requirements including requesting security clearance for certain key positions, and meeting physical security requirements ( such as a security system that detects intruders ). Licensed producers will also be subject to compliance and enforcement measures, and dried marijuana will only be shipped through a secure delivery service directly to the address the client has specified.

Taken together, these measures will reduce the risks of diversion of marijuana to illicit markets.

Under the MMPR, the fundamental role of health providers does not change. The responsibility to assess a patient and decide on appropriate treatment continues to rest with health care practitioners. The MMPR have created a streamlined process for those needing access to marijuana for medical purposes, eliminating the need for individuals to share health information with Health Canada.

To help support health care practitioners in making decisions about whether marijuana is an appropriate treatment option, an Expert Advisory Committee was created to assist in providing health care practitioners with comprehensive, accurate and up-todate information on the known uses of marijuana for medical purposes. More information is available on the Health Canada website.

The government understands the need to continue to provide reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes and the new regime does so in a manner that is consistent with the way access is provided for other narcotics used for medical purposes. This more appropriately balances the needs of patients with the health, safety and security of all Canadians.

Source: Annapolis County Spectator; The (CN NS)
Copyright: 2013 Transcontinental Nova Scotia Media Group inc.
Contact: editor@annapolisspectator.ca
Website: http://www.annapoliscountyspectator.ca/
Author: Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health Ottawa

Feds Announce Mail-Order Medical Pot

June 24th, 2013

Ottawa’s decision to phase out both government and personal medical marijuana production came as no surprise to patient advocates who opposed the new rules.

“I’m not surprised a bit,” said Ric Bills, who organized a rally protesting the proposed changes in Sechelt earlier this year.  “I didn’t think public comments would change what they had in store.  The Harper government doesn’t seem to care about patients whose lives are stake.  They put it all on public safety.  They’re really sticking it to the people.”

On June 10, Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Ottawa was proceeding with its plan to stop producing and distributing medical pot and is also removing the right of patients or their designates to grow their own plants.

Under the new system, all production will shift to private companies operating under contract to Health Canada and prescribed patients will only be able to obtain medical pot by mail order.  A suggestion in the draft regulations to allow pharmacists to dispense the product was scrapped after the Canadian Pharmacists Association strongly objected to the plan.

The changes are expected to mean significantly higher prices for patients who currently grow their own, and that will breathe new life into the black market, Bills predicted.

“The black market will get more profitable because if people can’t grow it themselves, they’ll go to the black market for it.  Some people can’t afford it.  They’ll keep growing and risk their freedom, and I guess some will be in pain.  It’s pretty backward,” he said.

Bills, who was a lawyer in the U.S.  before relocating to Halfmoon Bay, said Canada is “really behind the curve” compared to states such as Colorado and Washington, which are legalizing and planning to tax recreational marijuana.

“They’re going ahead.  We’re going backwards,” he said.

The new system, he said, will likely attract commercial operators who are in it for the money.

“You can’t really know patients through a mail order system.  It’s very impersonal.”

Both medical pot programs will operate concurrently until March 31, 2014, when the current regulations will be repealed, Health Canada said in a release.

Explaining the reason for the change, Health Canada said its medical pot program had grown exponentially since 2001 from 500 to more than 30,000 authorized persons.

“This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” the release said.  “Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”

Aglukkaq confirmed details of the new program during a press conference held on June 10 in an Ottawa fire hall.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said.  “These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

Bills questioned the number of fires that were actually sparked by medical marijuana grow-ops, and said the cost of related home invasions nationwide quoted by government — about $2 million per year — was a “pretty pathetic” figure.

“I think they’re blowing up their statistics and the harm of it all, and it’s not going to do away with medical marijuana grows,” Bills said.

Saying education and inspections would be a far better approach, Bills reiterated a theme expressed by patients and growers at the Sechelt rally in February.

“The Harper government doesn’t want it to work.  They’re going to spend a lot of money dragging it through the courts, and they’re going to lose, because the courts have been clear that it has to be reasonable access,” he said.

The new rules, he added, are “just scary” in light of the Conservatives’ mandatory minimum sentencing provisions and civil forfeiture laws, which could result in unlicensed growers having their homes seized.

“There’s Charter rights involved — that’s what people don’t understand,” Bills said.  “They’re constitutional rights and government is taking them away.”

Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Coast Reporter
Contact: editor@coastreporter.net
Website: http://www.coastreporter.net/
Author: John Gleeson

Lawyer Takes On Feds Over New Pot Rules

June 14th, 2013

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy is undertaking a legal battle against new changes to the federal government’s medical marijuana program.

On Monday, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced some of the anticipated changes to the program, which includes banning individual home-based medicinal grow-ops in favour of larger government licenced producers.

The new regulations mean sick or disabled people or their legal proxies with licences will no long be able to grow their own marijuana, said Conroy.

The price of marijuana from the large producers will cost people up to four times as much as producing their own, said Conroy.

The government estimates under the new program medical pot will be sold for $8 to $10 a gram while individuals grew their own for between $1 to $4, said Conroy.

The price increase will limit some sick individuals, many on a low income, from being able to buy marijuana for their conditions.

There is legal precedent that individuals with medical conditions with a doctor’s authorization have a Constitutional right to reasonable access to medical marijuana, said Conroy.

Under the old program, those that couldn’t afford dispensary or black market prices grew their own marijuana, something they won’t be able to do in the future.

Conroy expects to launch a Constitutional challenge on behalf of a coalition of medical marijuana users fighting the problematic aspects of the proposed regulations.

“Basically, we’re saying these people’s constitutional rights are being impaired by what’s being proposed,” said Conroy.

“At one time they could produce cannabis for themselves as there was no other program to provide it.  But a program that’s out of reach is akin to having no program at all.”

The group, MMAR DPL/ PPL Coalition Against Repeal, says it has 3,400 members across Canada.

Conroy said his firm has collected 1,000 victim impact statements so far.

The lawsuit aims to prevent some or all of the new regulations from coming into force, or to maintain the status quo until there’s some guarantee that all patients have reasonable access to medical marijuana.

Failing that, Conroy may also take up a class action lawsuit to compensate individuals who have invested resources and borne the costs of growing their own pot over the last decade.

On Monday, Aglukkaq agreed there must be reasonable access to legal marijuana for medical purposes.

But the government believes it must be done in a controlled manner to protect public safety, she said.

Since starting in 2001, the government’s medical marijuana program has grown exponentially, from less than 500 authorized persons to over 30,000 currently.

The rapid growth of those producing medical marijuana, often in private homes, had consequences for public health and safety, said Aglukkaq.

“These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses,” she said.

Municipal fire and bylaw authorities have long argued that home-based medical marijuana grows can pose fire safety problems or health problems due to mold.

Police point to the dangers of grow rips and the lack of enforcement to ensure licensed growers aren’t producing more than they need for the illegal market.

Under the new provisions, patients will have access to quality-controlled marijuana produced under sanitary conditions, said the minister.

But Conroy noted that individuals that grew or developed specific strains of marijuana for their particular medical conditions will be out of luck.

Litigation will get underway sometime after September and before March 2014 when the new regulations go into effect, he said.

The details on the federal government’s new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations come out June 19.

Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 The Abbotsford Times
Contact: editorial@abbotsfordtimes.com
Website: http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/
Author: Rochelle Baker

Orr Becomes a Weed-Whacker

May 16th, 2013

If those behind the idea of turning the arena in MacTier into a legal marijuana grow-op thought they had a fight on their hands before, No.  4 has just jumped over the boards.

Bobby Orr was famous for scoring big goals and, if necessary, dropping the gloves, too.

This time he’s prepared to do both.

In his more than half century of celebrity, Orr rarely speaks out or steps into controversy.

However, when it comes to closing down an arena and community centre on his home turf to rent out to a company so they can grow medicinal marijuana, it brings out the anger in the Hockey Hall of Famer.

When he first heard of it, the two-time Stanley Cup winner who also led Canada to the 1976 Canada Cup, thought somebody must be smoking something.

But it turns out, there really is a move to shut the MacTier Community Centre and lease the space out it to grow pot.

“Its outrageous,” Orr said in an exclusive interview.

Somebody must be smoking the strong stuff up there on Hwy.  69 if they thought they were going to sneak this one by without reaction.

But it seems, that is exactly what has happened.

And Monday at 9 a.m.  the council is expected to discuss a letter of understanding they have struck with the medical marijuana company Mettrum Ltd.

It will be a heated debate for the people who live there, some of whom have formed Save the Community Centre Committee led in part by Steven Schell.

Orr said to add his name to the cause.

“Shame, shame, shame.  Shame on those decision makers,” said the Boston Bruin’s legend and Canadian icon.  “What are they thinking?”

The whole thing is upsetting for the pride of Parry Sound, Ont.  since, although he grew up 20 minutes north, Orr considers himself hailing from MacTier too.

“I love MacTier.  I spent a lot of my youth there,” said Orr.  “My sister Penny married Ron Blanchard from MacTier.  These are very good people.”

The community centre was built in the 1970s and although Orr never played in it, he played baseball at the diamond nearby.  In fact he was on the 1964 MacTier Legionnaires championship team which is displayed in a picture in the arena.

Cheryl Ward, general manager of the Stockey Centre and Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, said Orr also played minor hockey on outdoor rinks in MacTier.

“Where would I be if not for the hockey rink,” asked Orr.  “Where would any Canadian kid be?”

The local connection aside, Orr said, he would have taken the rare approach of speaking out if this was being done in any Canadian arena.

“Does it seem right to you?” asked Orr.  “Who would close down a community centre to grow marijuana? Who would close a community centre down for any reason?”

Township of Georgian Bay Mayor Larry Braid told QMI Agency’s Roberta Bell “the annual cost of operating the community centre is about $250,000″ and it only “generates about $30,000 in revenue for the township.”

Orr said he had never heard of such an argument before in his decades around hockey.

“It doesn’t make enough money? Give me a break,” said Orr.  “Are these community arenas supposed to make money? When did they ever make money? That’s not what they are for.”

And the one in MacTier is so vital to the community, the irony is it was there 300 of the 800 residents gathered last week for a meeting with the company about this proposal.

Many stormed out in disgust.

Orr said he understands how they felt and agrees with them wholeheartedly.

“They are going to haul the marijuana out of the old arena right past the kids in the school across the street and right through the downtown?” asked Orr.

“It’s disgraceful.  I can’t believe this.  It’s a community centre.  A community place.  They have weddings there.  Seniors gather there and play cards.  There are birthday parties, funerals.  I just don’t understand this.”

Braid told QMI Agency this new operation could create 35 jobs and provide a better return on investment in the ledger book.

“But where are the kids going to play hockey and figure skate?” asked Orr.  “They just put money into this arena last year to fix it up and now the kids will have to drive to Midland 40 minutes away and the seniors will have nowhere to go.”

Others Orr has talked to about this have nothing against the company or growing pot for medical use but wonder “is this the only place in the Georgian Bay region where they could put it?”

The hockey legend said his involvement in this fight will continue when he comes up for his annual visit this summer.  “This is just not right,” said Orr.

Time will tell how it turns out but history shows when Bobby Orr is in the game, his team usually wins.

Source: Intelligencer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013, The Belleville Intelligencer
Contact: http://www.intelligencer.ca/letters
Website: http://www.intelligencer.ca/
Author: Joe Warmington

Medical Marijuana Plan Hits Snag

April 4th, 2013

A North Shore couple hoping to receive one of the first licenses to produce medical marijuana under new federal regulations has run into a bureaucratic roadblock.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay last week denied a variance application to let the couple expand two outbuildings on their property to a combined 4,435 square feet ( 412 square meters ) – more than four times the maximum size allowed for a home-based business in a residential area – and increase the number of permitted employees from two to four.

One of the applicants, who spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity, explained that by applying for a variance rather than going through a rezoning process, they hoped to avoid a public hearing that would have made their location common knowledge.

“I didn’t want it put on the map where a large medical grow facility was,” he said.

They aren’t hiding the nature of their proposed business from the regional district or neighbours, he added, but do have security concerns if their address is widely advertised.

However, when the matter reached the regional district’s rural affairs committee this month, directors upheld a staff recommendation to reject the variance and suggested the applicants seek rezoning instead.

Committee chair Hans Cunningham said the decision was based both on the size of the proposed variance and their belief regulations to be introduced this year will insist that commercial medical marijuana operations be located in industrial or agricultural areas.

“I applaud [the applicants] in that they want to get a jump on what’s going on,” he said.  “But if we give them a variance and the government said ‘No, you have to be on agricultural or industrial land,’ they’re not going to get a license.  So it makes sense to do the rezoning.”

The decision followed a presentation by the proponents, who came with several letters of support from neighbours and a petition of 30 names.  ( A staff report also listed objections from other neighbours, but they mostly related to the operation’s size, not its purpose.  )

“They made a hell of a presentation,” said director Larry Binks.  “Letter perfect.  It was well written and well documented.” He was one of three directors who spoke against denying the variance, believing the subject of marijuana clouded the discussion.

The proponents had no obligation to disclose what sort of business they were planning, he noted.  Still, he too believes rezoning is the right path – but wishes the applicants had been warned at the outset the variance had little chance of succeeding.

‘EPICENTRE OF MARIJUANA’

The applicant who spoke to the Star said they’re considering their options and haven’t decided whether to apply for rezoning.  “I don’t feel I’ve been treated badly by the regional district,” he said.  “It turned out my variance was too big.  I was asking for a lot.”

Even so, they would still be among the smallest license-seekers, he said.

He also said this area is already home to a high density of marijuana grow-ops as part of an illicit “black and grey marketplace” and called the federal government’s new rules the first “white regulations,” which he hopes are the first step in legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

“This new well-regulated industry will simply absorb the black market in time as it takes the profit out of growing and selling marijuana in the black market,” he said.

“We believe Nelson is the epicenter of marijuana and that reputation can be exploited for the benefit of our entire community.  Our leaders should wake up to this fact and see that there is an incredible opportunity for our community in particular to reap huge benefits.”

He urged local politicians to welcome and encourage medical marijuana entrepreneurs with “open door policies, rules, zoning, and investment,” and avoid making decisions “out of ignorance, fear, and the propaganda they have been fed for years.”

WIDER DISCUSSION

The North Shore application, the first to reach the regional district, comes as local government considers its role in policing medical marijuana operations.

The new federal regulations – originally expected to be unveiled next month but apparently now delayed until October – are intended to license commercial production and distribution of medical pot while eliminating personal grow ops.

But a recent memo from RDCK planning staff asks how Health Canada’s procedures will mesh with the regional district’s permitting process and whether building and bylaw officers will inspect commercial operations.  It also wonders about the potential effect on neighbours and whether locations will be made public.

Staff consulted other jurisdictions and concluded the most practical solution is to focus on agricultural zones where licensed producers can operate in stand-alone buildings well away from homes.  They suggest existing operators not zoned agricultural could stay put but would be required to apply for rezoning.

The board referred the memo to its April meeting, when Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks, who is helping draft the new legislation, will be present.

But the North Shore proponent said he’s disappointed the RDCK is “playing follow the leader” when he believes it should be setting the precedents.  “Our municipalities should be looking for ways to keep our cottage industry, by working with the new regulations for maximum Kootenay benefit,” he said.

Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Section: Front page
Copyright: 2013 Black Press
Website: http://www.bclocalnews.com/kootenay_rockies/nelsonstar/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/4866
Author: Greg Nesteroff