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Opportunity up in smoke?

It’s the most amazing thing — the medical marijuana phenomenon in Canada.

To serve a relatively small number of clientèle/patients across Canada, about 40,000, Health Canada has received about 450 applications from people wanting to produce the product on a large scale. On top of that, about 25 applications are coming in a week.

That’s incredible interest, considering the number of medical pot users is a tiny portion of the Canadian population.

The number of patients expected to use the product in one form or another — for example smoke it, drink it, eat it — is expected to eventually grow to about only three or four times the current size of Red Deer, to 300,000 to 400,000, in about 10 years. This would represent only about one per cent of Canadians. Something smells skunky.

Meanwhile, municipalities are already scrambling to consider whether they should allow these controversial legal grow-ops (they don’t like to be called that), or whether they can even prevent them from establishing once they have a Health Canada licence to produce.

Residents have concerns that legal medicinal pot producers will attract the criminal element.

Aptly-named Releaf Inc. recently ran into opposition in the Mountain View County, just south of Red Deer County.

Releaf was issued a 50,000-square-foot building permit on an agricultural basis without having to go the development permit route that would have required a public hearing. The company can build a facility in a remote rural area, about eight km northwest of Cremona.

Going forward, after public concerns, the county has changed its bylaws so that any other medical marijuana facilities will only be permitted in easily visible and accessible sites. But Releaf will be a go if it meets Health Canada’s approval standards.

The Health Canada-approved producers become the middle men, cutting out the little sick guy, who the government intends to force out of growing his own, for cheaper, personal use.

Medicinal users do need a doctor’s prescription.

Users say the benefits of medicinal pot include, among other things, improving appetite, and alleviating pain and symptoms of illnesses like multiple sclerosis.

As of today, only approved Health Canada commercial operators are supposed to be able to produce medical marijuana. But a recent court injunction has allowed those who grow their own to continue to do so while a broader court challenge unfolds.

Health Canada says it is worried that those who grow their own pot might end up with a bad batch that would do further harm to already ill people. It’s a bit like saying don’t grow your own tomatoes, buy them from a commercial producer, it’s safer.

Why all this silly foofaraw around medical marijuana?

How about this: It would be simpler and smarter to just change the laws, as Colorado and Washington have done, and legalize medicinal and recreational personal use of marijuana.

In January, the first month of the legal selling of pot in Colorado, the state received $2 million in taxes.

What is the state is going to spend the first $40 million in pot taxes on? What else — building new schools.

Medicinal pot in Canada is a “panama red” herring.

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 403-314-4332.



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