Grow your own medicine may be the future
7 ACRES mature medical cannabis plants were harvested from the Kincardine-area facility in mid-August, 2016 and the crop is the first of two to be tested by Health Canada in order for 7 ACRES to receive its license to sell from the federal government. (Troy Patterson/Kincardine News/Postmedia)
After the federal government’s announcement concerning legalizing recreational use of cannabis, more than a couple of old hippies have been buzzing.
Everyone has an opinion on it, from ethics professors to economic prognosticators. It would appear the broad green leaf that has been demonized for almost a century has coming back into favour.
Not to say the medical use of the product hasn’t been grabbing attention in the past five years, outside the realm of popular culture.
More and more people in the medical profession are agreeing cannabis is a safer substitute to opioids for the treatment of a number of maladies and pain management.
Locally, for The Barn Co-operative Network’s speaker series that is held on weekends near Thornbury, probably the most interest they receive in any programs they host concerns medical cannabis.
In fact, three workshops are being held this month covering topics such as treating chronic pain and growing your own cannabis medicine.
Richard Gillman knows a lot about the medical application of cannabis. He is a consultant, a trainer and a client and has been developing his own seed bank.
He said legalizing marijuana is a giant step in de-stigmatizing a plant that has been misunderstood.
Although Gillman doesn’t have an opinion on recreational use, he has seen the benefits of the use of medical cannabis, first at his work at Dr. Linda Morel’s medical cannabis clinic, Mind, Body, Spirit Connection, in Collingwood, but now as he is a technical adviser for the parent clinic, Canadian Cannabis, as well as developing his own seed bank.
“Canadian Cannabis latched on to what I am pretty knowledgeable (about), so they put me on in-bound phone calls, answering technical questions and facilitating patients with directing them how to get into the system and so on,” said Gillman.
“I am doing grow consulting, and my seed bank is growing like crazy, so it’s really busy. And, of course, Dr. Linda’s clinic is growing and we are seeing that the community is really embracing it.”
The effort is anything but recreational. The patients Gillman talks with are just trying to find relief. The talks he has given at places like The Barn have been packed.
“A big thing that I am finding on the phone now (is) people are recognizing that opioids are dangerous, they’re harmful, they are causing more damage than good and that they are willing to explore something that they realize is natural,” said Gillman. “There is a paradigm shift on now. People who had been brought up to be against cannabis are realizing that, even though they may harbour some of those feelings, they understand that cannabis is the lesser of two evils and that pharmaceuticals are much more dangerous (and can) have addictive properties.”
THC is just the main cannabinoid; BCD is second, but there are about 83 other cannabinoids that exist is different levels. Gillman explained.
Most of the cannabinoids are minute, so they are not discussed much, but in the few studies that have taken place, they have found that some have huge benefits for specific conditions.
“There are breeders right now who are doing hybrids and crosses to try and bring out these cannabinoids in higher percentages,” said Gillman. “In 10 years from now, they will have bred plants and brought them to the point where you can get a plant that has higher percentages to treat some of these medical conditions.”
As with every emerging industry, trends are beginning to develop. One Gillman hears about frequently is the desire for patients to grow their own plants – one reason being that, in several cases, either through demand or industry recalls, licensed dispensaries cannot keep up with demand.
“The other thing is that, because there is no coverage for the most part, price plays a role. People are starting to realize that growing their own is much more cost effective,” said Gillman. ”You also have full control over what you produce.”
Gillman can see a cultural shift, especially as the result of the federal legislation.
“Again, I think that in 10 years, growing your own is going to be commonplace, like it is in California, where I think every household can have four plants.”
Oddly, selling seeds in Canada is legal, though germination is only legal if you have your own Health Canada grow permit.
“The seed bank, for me, started as a grassroots thing ... Some of the cannabinoids are very valuable, so people asked why are the dispensaries are not able to supply this,” said Gillman.
In the short term, while legislation is being debated, Gillman warns patients to stay away from neighbourhood dispensaries.
“There is no question, from a legal perspective, that the dispensaries are not legal. There’s a huge amount of confusion. Legal permit holders have to know that by going to a dispensary, they are doing something illegal,” said Gillman. “Patients can lose their (prescription) and their right to use. Plus, they can be charged with possession because it is an illegal substance.”
Also, he said, the products from dispensaries are not always safe.
“There have been a few recalls, and that’s happened because of the stringent quality control that Health Canada does,” he said. “In dispensaries, you have no idea if it has been grown in somebody’s mouldy basement or if it has been fed really horrible nutrients to stimulate quick growth. You have no idea what you are getting, You don’t know the percentage of cannabinoids – 5% THC or 25%.”
“So, it’s a crapshoot.”