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Medical marijuana users rely on the drug to control pain, epileptic seizures, and other debilitating symptoms. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Medical marijuana users rely on the drug to control pain, epileptic seizures, and other debilitating symptoms. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Medical marijuana review brings out Canadians’ entrepreneurial spirit Add to ...

One prospective grower of medical marijuana is a law student who hopes Health Canada officials will be impressed by his “charisma and character.”

Another has already developed his own “one of a kind” strain of the plant that will help “hundreds, if not thousands, of people from the pains and discomforts that they feel in their everyday lives.”

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And another owns a “highly secure” facility in British Columbia with panic buttons, bollards on its service bays and “bomb grade” anti-shatter windows.

There has been no shortage of interest in the Harper government’s plan to open the medical-marijuana market to companies that want to grow the drug in a secure environment and deliver it to some of the more than 26,000 Canadians who rely on it to control pain, epileptic seizures, and other debilitating symptoms.

The government has received more than 50 inquiries since Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced in December that she was was changing the way cannabis is produced and distributed.

No more would the government be in the marijuana-growing business, said Ms. Aglukkaq. The Conservative government, which has never been particularly pro-pot, objected to the fact that the crop it contracted a prairie-based company to produce was being heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

And home production – which allowed Canadians to grow small amounts for themselves and another person – can be a fire hazard. So it too will be phased out, to the chagrin of many users who say the drug will become more expensive and difficult to find.

Instead, the government says it will turn the job over to licensed companies with secure, indoor growing spaces run by people who have the technical know-how and are prepared to meet certain standards of cleanliness.

The government plans to have the new system in place by March of next year. And the first stage to becoming one of those producers is to apply now for a licence to conduct research-and-development activities with marijuana.

That has prompted a lot of folks to take a look at their greenhouses, their abandoned warehouses and their surplus factory space and ask themselves if weed cultivation could be part of their future.

In places like the small Muskoka town of MacTier, local residents are faced with the prospect of seeing their community centre and area turned into a grow-op. And documents obtained by Ottawa-based researcher Ken Rubin through Access to Information suggest there are a lot more MacTiers out there.

Health Canada has received many private-sector proposals from people who want to get in on the ground floor.

One one “family-run business” with a large steel and concrete building located somewhere between Vancouver and Calgary says “we see a market to be involved in.”

A person from Ryerson University in Toronto said he or she represents a group of investors interested in producing medical cannabis.

Another person wanted to know: “Will I need to go to university and get a degree? If yes, which degree?”

And a law student assured the department that he or she has never “failed a grade, been arrested, suspended, or guilty of a crime.”

Many of the letters of interest came from people who are already licensed to grow marijuana in their own home and will soon have to obtain the drug from other sources if they are not allowed to expand their operations.

“I have been making my fresh product into food and have found it very beneficial,” said one applicant. “To do this I need fresh product. I feel this will not be accomplished by having to purchase product from another grower, nor could I afford it.”

In a similar vein, another current grower explained that he or she needed a lot of the product. “If, for some reason, I cannot acquire a commercial licence,” they wrote, “I would be interested in applying for employment. I would be willing to relocate and I believe strongly I would be an asset to the medical marijuana organization.”

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