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Commercial producers might increase price of medical marijuana

By SCOTT STANFIELD
December 18, 2012 · 11:54 AM
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HEALTH MINISTER LEONA Aglukkaq announces a shift to a new system of regulated commercial producers of medical pot. / Photo submitted

The federal government is looking to eliminate licensed medical marijuana grow-ops in homes.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Sunday a planned shift to a new system of regulated commercial producers of medical pot who will supply authorized users with a doctor's prescription.

The plan could adversely affect the North Island Compassion Club, which sells medicinal marijuana and other medications such as cannabis-infused oil to help people who live with cancer and other ailments.

"There's nothing in these new regulations that allow for compassion clubs," said NICC manager Ernie Yacub, noting government is considering allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe medical marijuana. "They would absolutely have to do that because doctors have been the problem. They've been the gatekeeper. They won't prescribe."

The new system, which ends government production of medical pot, is expected to come at a higher price for nearly 26,000 users authorized to possess medical marijuana.

Eliminating personal grow licences means people with limited means will not be be able to afford the medicine, Yacub said.

"They can't buy it from these commercial producers. It's too expensive," said Yacub, who is encouraged that Health Canada is getting out of the licensing business. Authorities have argued home growers typically produce far more plants than required, suggesting abuse of the program by licencees who sell into the illicit market.

“The high value of marijuana on the illicit market increases the risk of home invasions,” Aglukkaq said. “These production operations can also present fire and toxic mold hazards.”

The Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. (FCABC) said the change will improve safety in residential neighbourhoods.

Yacub feels safety claims about fire and mold are "bogus."

"This whole regulatory scheme is aimed at the law-and-order folks," he said. "Eliminating personal grow licences makes it very difficult for people to afford the medicine. It's not covered by the government."

An exception is the Armed Forces, which he notes is covered by Veteran Affairs.

The federal Ministry of Health intends to implement the system by March 31, 2014, at which point all licences to possess or produce pot would expire.

The government is holding a 75-day comment period for public feedback at http://bit.ly/U4xtqi. It ends Feb. 28, 2013.

Details of new regulations are available at http://bit.ly/SFDUlX.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

– with files from Black Press and CTV News