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Posted: March 14, 2015

Time to end the medical pot travesty

GerrywPerceptions by Gerry Warner

So Cranbrook is going to get a new industry. About time, you say, and I agree except I’m not so sure about the industry being talked about, namely medicinal marijuana or “pot” as we called it in the good ol’ ‘60s and we got high on it and never thought of the alleged health benefits.

However, Cranbrook council, and the one before it for that matter, appears to be quite high on the prospect of making the Key City the pot capital of the Kootenays and taking the dubious distinction away from Nelson. But do our well-intended, if somewhat naïve councillors, have any idea of what they may be tripping out on? I don’t think so.

Is there money in devil weed? You might as well ask if the sky is blue or water wet. Health Canada estimates medicinal pot will be a $1.3 billion industry by 2024 and this has launched a veritable “greenwash” across Canada with producers from Halifax to Victoria chasing the elusive pot of gold. Not to mention Cranbrook’s idea to stick a pot factory in an industrial park somewhere with the mayor cutting a green ribbon on opening day.

But don’t throw your baggies away just yet because there’s an awfully big fly in this medicinal ointment because Health Canada is a bureaucracy, and like any government bureaucracy, has laid down some stringent rules for hemp entrepreneurs wanting to get in on the greenwash.

So far, out of more than 1,000 applications from coast to coast, only around 20 have been approved as authorized producers of medicinal Mary Jane and the application process can take as long as two years.

“They (Health Canada) are really an unfortunate bureaucracy under siege,” said Umar Syed, president of Cann-Mart Inc. in a CBC interview last June. Syed said would-be pot purveyors like him are “all dressed up and nowhere to go” as Health Canada struggles with a “tsunami” of applications. And the agency is rejecting many applications as it did last week with CEN Biotech which is seeking to build the world’s largest marijuana factory in Ontario and is accused in an investigation by the Toronto Globe and Mail of having “numerous misrepresentations” in its application and misleading investors. CEN Biotech then issued a statement saying said it will hash the matter out in court with Health Canada.

As of October 2014, Health Canada refused 226 applications and issued only 22 licenses to producers with 291 still going through the tortuous process. The delays are hurting the companies wanting get in on the pot-rush. “They’re burning through money like crazy,” said Ottawa lawyer Trina Fraser in a CBC interview last November. “Everybody’s going bananas, out of their minds, frustrated with the process.”

Then there’s the little matter of whether the estimated 500,000 or so medicinal pot users in Canada, 80% of whom are estimated to live in B.C., are really toking up for the health benefits of the still-illegal drug or just recreational users of B.C. bud and its numerous pale imitators. Shortly after April 1, 2014 when Health Canada issued its new regulations for medicinal marijuana producers the Canadian Medical Association issued the following statement:

The CMA still believes there is insufficient scientific evidence available to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes. It also believes there is insufficient evidence on clinical risks and benefits, including the proper dosage of marijuana to be used and on the potential interactions between this drug and other medications.

Hmmm. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Despite this, the pot tsunami continues to crest on the Left Coast with illegal but tolerated marijuana emporiums springing up all over the Lower Mainland like pot plants after a summer rain.

Vancouver alone has 20 storefront pharmacies offering services like cannabis oil massages, WiFi vapour lounges (sure to be a hit on Baker Street), and hemp juice bars.

“We’d like to educate people that you can heal yourself without pharmaceutical drugs,” Matteo Suleyman, manager of the Sea to Sky Alternative Healing Society told CBC News after opening his second location on the east side of Vancouver complete with an in-house naturopathic doctor and a medicinal marijuana smoothie bar.

In a CBC interview, Const. Brian Montague said Vancouver police aren’t in a rush to bust so-called marijuana “pharmacies,” but the drug is still illegal and things could change. “While these dispensaries are not a priority, it does not mean they can’t become a priority if public safety becomes a concern.”

Public safety indeed! Don’t you think it’s time to end this farcical travesty and just legalize this dubious drug and its questionable health benefits and let people decide for themselves if they want to inhale it, bake it, drink it or rub it into their skin? All we’re doing now is making lawyers rich and entrepreneurs greedy.

“Reefer madness! When will it end?”

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a non-smoker of anything, including pot.

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