Manitoba farmers already grow hemp for its seed and fibre& they might one day be growing for its medicinal properties too
They came from the country as well as the city hoping to learn about a crop that could relieve their symptoms, revive their farms or reinvent their basements.
And organizers of a two-day seminar on medical marijuana suggest the day is coming when production will move from backyards or basements to large-scale operations.
There are quite a few producers here, looking for something to do on the side, or possibly over the winter, said Don Schultz, founder of Greenline Academy, which hosted the seminar at the University of Winnipeg in early November.
We want to educate people about marijuana, the medicinal properties and how to cultivate it properly, he said. We want people to be compliant and follow the laws if they do this.
Health Canada allows individuals with marijuana prescriptions to grow their own, or purchase medication from a designated grower if they don t wish to purchase it from Health Canada.
Approximately 12,000 Canadians are currently prescribed the drug, said Schultz. He added many more are waiting for approvals from physicians or Health Canada.
I think I could make a go of it; it would help to make the ends meet, said a strawberry farmer from central Manitoba who attended the seminar.
However, he didn t feel comfortable using his name.
There is still a stigma attached to the whole thing, said the grey-haired participant. Plus, you have to think about security, if people know, they might get ideas.
To become a designated grower, you must have a patient to supply. There are no more than two patients allowed per grower and four patients per household, if two designated growers live on the same premises.
How much a designated grower can produce is dictated by how much marijuana is prescribed to any given patient, with a licence often ranging from 20 to 100 plants.
(The government) rushed this because it was a court order, then they came up with this system, said Don Skogstad, a criminal lawyer specializing in drug offences. And they should have thought it through, because clearly this is not a good system.
However, Skogstad thinks changes might be coming to how medical marijuana is produced in Canada, resulting in grow operations that look more like conventional agriculture.
What the government is going to do, or considering doing, is to eliminate personal growing and eliminate designated growers and… have large-scale growers and dispensers, said the British Columbia-based litigator.
He noted the government doesn t collect licensing fees from marijuana growers, so there is little funding to support the industry or hire inspectors. A wide variety of small growers also leads to inconsistencies in product quality, and growers operating in areas not designed for industrial or agricultural production.
A farm is a good, safe place for this; this is something farmers should look into, said Skogstad. No farmer is going to get as much per gram for any crop they could conceivably ever think of growing, as they could for this.
He added the government also has political incentives to move marijuana production out of residential areas and into rural locations.
But even if the government doesn t move to large-scale supply operations, Schultz said it is possible to make a living growing medical marijuana.
Start in part time and get to know it, then work your way up, he said, explaining two patients using a total of 10 grams per day would result in $350 in sales each week, if a grower charged the basic $5 per gram.
Don Schultz, founder of Greenline Academy, was in Winnipeg to host a seminar on growing medical marijuana at the University of Winnipeg early this November.PHOTO: SHANNON VANRAES
However, growers can charge at their discretion and patients are often prescribed more than five grams per day.
But growing pot isn t like planting some tomatoes in the backyard. The seminar covered sophisticated hydroponics methods like aeroponics, as well as outdoor cultivation. Not to mention the pitfalls of theft and law enforcement gone awry.
Police seem to, unfortunately, not except medical marijuana, said Skogstad. He said there have been cases of police raiding legal grow operations and destroying plants people were permitted to have.
But if you re careful, read and follow your licences, and things work the way they re supposed to, there is an opportunity, he said.