Montreal’s Centre de Compassion, a medical marijuana facility, was raided last year and subsequently shut down, its director Marc-Boris St. Maurice charged with trafficking.
Yet, much to his surprise, Health Canada asked him for advice on the subject of medical marijuana, along with other black market medical marijuana growers and dispensers and members of Health Canada’s Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulatory Reform, at a meeting in Ottawa Wednesday.
They wanted to know how to grow, distribute and regulate the drug for medical purposes. The National Post’s Kristin Annable spoke to Mr. St. Maurice:
Q: Health Canada had an audience full of people who Ottawa has spent years trying to shut up and shut down. With this opportunity, what sort of questions did they ask?
A: Well I have the sheet right here, some examples are:
In an indoor installation would you use artificial or natural light?
Should you use hydroponic or natural soil?
What are the minimum requirements, in your opinion, for the person in charge of quality?
Q: And how did you answer those questions?
A: In my opinion the most important thing is the proficiency of the person, whether it is hydroponic or natural soil. Obviously, I prefer indoor because you can control the environment better. I think you would need someone with both microbiology experience and someone who has experience cultivating.
Q: Usually facilities like yours are at odds with the government. How does it feel to have Health Canada come to you looking for help?
A: That is the irony of the situation. Health Canada has come to court testifying against myself and other medical marijuana providers many times. Yet, now they are coming to us looking for information because they know it has value. Some people here have cases pending against them; are they going to testify against us after inviting us here?
Q: What were the people like who were there?
A: There were producers from all over the country. I think there was at least three from Toronto, some more from Montreal, Halifax, Guelph. The crowd was quite diverse, people in suits and ties, people in ponytails and leather hats, everyone from lawyers to old hippies.
Q: Over the years you must have developed quite the expertise on the subject.
A: Yes, we have always had to do it illegally. The positive is that they are acknowledging our level of expertise, which is a phenomenon.
Q: So how did they extend the invite to you?
A: Last summer, Health Canada announced that they were overhauling the whole medical marijuana access regulations and getting rid of personal production licenses. We went to a consultation at that time to discuss dispensing marijuana, where they announced that they would be giving out commercial production licenses to “compassion care” facilities to supply and legally produce it.
Q: So they decided that they want it produced commercially for medical use?
A: They said they would have a subsequent meeting to follow-up, which was this meeting. This was the first meeting that they have reached out to and recognized our expertise on the subject of production.
Q: And how did they conduct the meeting?
A: It was in a hotel conference room. We were broken up into three groups to discuss three themes: Quality, record keeping and security.
Q: Do you think the government understands what they are doing when it comes to growing marijuana?
A: No I don’t think they do. After 10 years of this, they are realizing that what we do is complex.
Q: What were the bigger concerns raised at this consultation?
A: Security. One thing they were asking was whether they should do criminal background checks for the producers. I’m of the opinion it would be wrong to exclude people who have a record of marijuana production, because they have the experience. It’d be like having a gay rights club and only letting straight people in.