Yukon News

Medical marijuana, coming to a store near you

Chris Oke Friday May 14, 2010

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

Richardrupert

RIchard Rupert, owner of The Adult Warehouse, is selling cannabis seeds at his Whitehorse store, and hopes to start a compassion club for medical marijuana users in the territory.

The next time your back hurts, you might be reaching for your AK-47 instead of the Tylenol.

Or maybe you’ll decide to take a hit of Northern Light, which seems more at home up here.

But why not White Widow, Peace Maker, White Rhino or Bubble Gum?

These are the names of some of the cannabis seeds going on sale at The Adult Warehouse this month.

Owner Richard Rupert wants to spread the word about the medicinal uses of marijuana.

He’s selling the seeds and hopes to start a compassion club to sell the stuff fully grown sometime in the future.

Rupert got the idea when a friend of his, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, began using marijuana to supplement her medication.

At one time, her treatment consisted of a hypodermic of medicine once a week that cost $500 and left her feeling tired and horrible.

When she began using doctor-prescribed marijuana, she cut that expensive shot in half and now feels infinitely better.

But how does one buy an illegal substance?

“That’s the problem,” said Rupert.

“You can get your licence, but where do you get your marijuana from if you don’t have a dispensary anywhere? The black market?”

Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001.

The Canadian government grows and sells its own hippie lettuce.

In December 2000, Health Canada contracted Prairie Plant Systems Inc. in Flin Flon, Manitoba, to “cultivate and produce a safe, standardized, homogenous supply of marijuana,” according to the Health Canada website.

But Ottawa’s weed isn’t very good and often not potent enough for medicinal marijuana users, said Rupert.

So, many people have turned to growing their own.

It is not legal to grow or possess marijuana, except with permission from Health Canada.

If you are authorized to use medicinal marijuana you may also apply for a licence to grow your own, or you can apply to have someone else grow it for you.

Rupert’s seeds are all bought from Canadian “breeders.”

These breeders have started mixing different strains, designing marijuana to help with specific ailments.

Different strains of the Cannabis indica species give you a “body buzz” and can be good as a painkiller for those with a sore back, arthritis or MS, said Rupert.

Strains of Cannabis sativa give more of a “head stone,” and can be useful for those suffering from ADHD, headaches, schizophrenia and depression.

Health Canada allows access to marijuana for medical use for those who are suffering from “grave and debilitating illnesses.”

These illnesses include multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, spinal cord disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, severe forms of arthritis and epilepsy.

Anyone suffering from severe pain, persistent muscle spasms, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, severe nausea, or seizures as the result of any other disease can also be authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes.

You just need a specialist to confirm the diagnosis and that conventional treatments have failed or are inappropriate to relieve these symptoms.

To apply, an application must be submitted to Health Canada. All the forms and guidelines are available online.

There are currently 22 people living in the Yukon who are licensed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to Rupert, adding there are 28 doctors sympathetic to use of the drug.

That number is probably inflated, said Yukon Medical Association president Dr. Rao Tadepalli.

“I wouldn’t think that the majority of physicians would be fans of marijuana,” he said.

“It’s a drug of addiction, a drug of recreation. I mean, the medicinal uses are there, and we’re certainly supportive of the medicinal uses, especially in multiple sclerosis patients.

“But I mean, do we want a town of potheads?”

Marijuana can also be good for chronic pain, but it is often not the first choice of physicians who prefer more established drugs.

“A lot of people believe in it and that’s fine. As long as you don’t make it a public health issue, I don’t care what you do,” said Tadepalli.

“But there are certainly other drugs that are more potent and useful. We don’t need to turn to marijuana for any reason because there are some excellent drugs out there.

“I’d be interested to know what the RCMP would say in that regard.”

So was Rupert.

When he first decided to sell cannabis seeds from his store, Rupert phoned the RCMP to get the go-ahead.

It took a while for the police to look into it, but finally they told him it was OK.

It’s legal to sell seeds to anyone at all, said Rupert, just as long you don’t try to sell the seeds to people in the US.

Mark Emery found that out the hard way.

The self-described “prince of pot” was arrested five years ago for shipping seeds south from his Vancouver store.

He is currently facing the possibility of extradition to the US, where he’ll face five years in prison.

Whitehorse RCMP did not respond to requests for information before press time.

Contact Chris Oke at

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