Cannabis patients farm out their growing needs as they await legalization

Canadian medical marijuana users can designate someone to grow the plants on their behalf — but is anyone seeking out artisanal weed farmers? Photo from Getty Images.
Canadian medical marijuana users can designate someone to grow the plants on their behalf — but is anyone seeking out artisanal weed farmers? Photo from Getty Images.

Tracy Curley’s relationship with her medical marijuana grower is much like the one someone might have with the farmer who sells organic veggies at the farmers’ market.

“He knows what my sensitives are. I know that my cannabis is grown cleanly and ethically,” Curley, an advocate for medical marijuana patients, told Yahoo Canada News. “I tell him I’m lucky because it’s grown with so much love.”

Cannabis patients registered with Health Canada now have three options for legally obtaining marijuana. They can purchase it from one of the few dozen producers licensed by Health Canada, they can grow a limited quantity for themselves, or they can purchase from a designated grower — as Curley does.

Every patient has different preferences, but some people prefer a designated grower, for a variety of reasons. For example Curley prefers sativa strains of marijuana that have a more uplifting effect, but she says these can be more challenging to grow, so they aren’t always available from larger-scale producers.

“They take longer to grow. They take more nutrients. They take more work,” Curley said. “I’m extremely lucky, I’ve got an incredible grower who grows strains that are specifically what I ask for.”

Some patients might choose to grow their own plants — allowed by Health Canada as of August after a Federal Court decision — but that’s not a great option for Curley, who lives in downtown Toronto.

“For setting up a garden for myself, not only is it a lot of work but it’s also a lot of space I just don’t have,” she said.

But the personalized nature of using a designated grower can also be a barrier to finding one in the first place. Events like a recent “speed dating” night the Calgary Cannabis Society, a non-profit group, held earlier in November are designed to help patients and designated growers connect in an environment that reduces some of the stress and stigma around discussing both medical information and marijuana itself.

“It really took all of the social anxiety out of the whole thing,” Lisa Mamakind-Adams of the Calgary Cannabis Society told Yahoo Canada News. “It went really, really well.”

A variety of designated growers participated, including those who are interested but not growing yet, Mamakind-Adams said. And those already growing were able to bring product samples for patients to inspect and try. There are plans to make the event monthly, and she hopes the model will spread to other parts of the country.

“We had people across the country contact us about participating whenever the next one is,” Mamakind-Adams said. It’s legal for registered patients to purchase cannabis from designated growers in other provinces, so there are plans to have patients outside Calgary participate via Skype for future events.

But though designated growers have only been an option for medical cannabis patients in Canada for a few months, the coming legalization of marijuana may be preventing some from registering and providing the service, Curley said.

“There hasn’t been as much demand as I expected,” Curley said of designated growers after the August rule change, and she thinks that’s because of the uncertainty surrounding the expected legalization of marijuana.

A report from the task force studying legalization is due to be submitted to the federal government by Wednesday, though it’s unclear when the report will be made public.

“Most industry experts see the [Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations] as a stop gap before legalization,” Curley said. “I think we’re going to see some interesting things when they release the report.”

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