Sunday, June 16, 2024

Opportunities Abound With Medical Marijuana –But Patients Must Come First

By Stephen Vance, Editor

The recent changes to the rules regarding medical marijuana in Canada are a bit of a mixed bag from a patient perspective. Where previously patients were permitted to grow their own medicine, under the new scheme patients must destroy their plants and begin purchasing their medication from large-scale, government-regulated producers. That change, if it holds – a court challenge is currently underway – would mean significant cost increases for the nearly 40,000 Canadians who use medical marijuana to treat medical conditions.

On the other hand, communities like Meaford are in a perfect position to benefit from the new production and distribution structure established by our Conservative government.

When it comes to economic development, Meaford has found that our location – a little too far away from the super-highways to the south, or our lack of support industries and services, can be a hindrance. For the medical marijuana industry however, Meaford is a nearly perfect community to host such a facility.

What a medical marijuana production facility needs is some land, and an empty building. Meaford has plenty of both. That Meaford’s council is being proactive in having staff study the requirements for this new industrial opportunity in Canada, and to establish the various policies that are required in order to allow a facility to exist in Meaford while ensuring that the community is protected, could make Meaford even more appealing for a medical marijuana producer to set up shop.

Depending on the size, a medical marijuana production facility could employ dozens of people in an area that is desperate for well-paying jobs. And the potential growth in the industry is certainly very appealing with medical marijuana being possibly just the beginning.

Many states to the south of us have decriminalized the possession of marijuana, removing the infraction from one that is criminally prosecuted to one that is simply handled with a ticket and a small fine. Additionally, two states have completely legalized recreational marijuana, and many other states are considering moving in the same direction. In Canada, the federal Conservatives have even suggested that they are willing to listen to the advice of police chiefs from across the nation who agree that marijuana possession should be, at the least, decriminalized.

This shift in policy across the continent has been driven in part by those who use medical marijuana. Cancer patients experiencing nausea, AIDS patients needing appetite stimulation, insomniacs looking for better quality sleep, chronic pain sufferers seeking to better control their pain, have put a new face on marijuana users. Heading off into the sunset are the stereotypes of laid back hippie-types getting a buzz from the evil marijuana plant. The new face of marijuana users looks an awful lot like the grandmother next door, or the construction worker up the block, or the police officer around the corner.

The new face of marijuana is a former provincial Health Minister teaming up with Toronto’s former Deputy Police Chief along with a pharmacist making an application to establish a marijuana production company.

The tide is turning, and what will start off as production of marijuana for patients, could very likely explode into a much larger industry with a much larger customer base as states and provinces gradually move to full legalization.

So in these early days of a budding industry, Meaford is in a perfect position to court a facility. But there is another way that Meaford is in a perfect position to make a positive impact.

There are many people in this community who use marijuana for medical purposes. And while a community like Meaford could benefit from the new regulations for medical marijuana production, patients in this community, just as in every community across the country, will be negatively impacted should the right to grow some amount of medicine at home not be retained.

For some their prescription might call for just a couple of grams of marijuana each day, in which case the shift from growing your own to purchasing from a government-regulated private producer wouldn’t be overly unmanageable for most. Based on the prices listed by Canada’s newest medical marijuana producers, that patient would need to cough up between $150 and $300 per month. Expensive yes, but worth it for the patient.

Some patients, though, use 10 or 15 grams or more each day to treat their conditions. At an average price of $10 per gram on Canadian websites, that patient would need to come up with $4,500 per month – where under the old rules they could have grown the medicine themselves for a few hundred dollars each month.

Part of Meaford’s soon to be established policies for medical marijuana producers should be a requirement for compassionate pricing for those on low or fixed incomes. Many of the newly approved producers in Canada are already doing this.

Even better for patients across the country would be for Meaford to make it a policy to lobby the federal government in support of patients in their need to be able to grow at least some of their own medicine.

It is certainly a positive that a new industry is forming in Canada, however we can’t let the federal government forget that it is medical marijuana, which means the consumer is a patient, and patients shouldn’t have to go broke or suffer without when they could grow their medicine right beside their cucumbers. Let’s not lose focus on the patients.

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