Locals sickened by proposed pot changes 33 By Diana Martin, Chatham Daily News Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:51:21 EST PM

A capsule filled with cannabis oil the size of a rice grain has turned Edith Neuts' life around.

The 50-year-old woman was on an 18-pill-a-day cocktail to deal with constant pain, a heart condition, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure.

"It's going on four months now. I've completely weaned myself off painkillers and off anti-depressants," said Neuts. "I am currently weaning myself off the anti-anxiety medication and I'm back to work full time."

Neuts feels the proposed changes to the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) will send her back into a "non-life" because she won't be be able to afford the cannabis oil.

Dave Van Kesteren, MP for Chatham-Kent Essex, said the MMAR program lacks checks and balances to ensure the criminal element isn't using the legalized grow-ops to distribute marijuana.

"Health Canada is studying the effects of how this program has worked. They are looking at having grow-ops that would be controlled," said Van Kesteren. "They would have the proper securities, they'd have the proper licences in place so that we know what's going out, what's being used for medicinal purposes."

Joanne, who wished to withhold her last name, is a licensed grower and user of medicinal marijuana. She fears her prescription will cost upwards of $80 a day if the government switches to corporately run grow-ops.

"My pension is less than what it would cost for me to just get what I need for the month to make the oil," said Joanne. "It's going to make it unaffordable, unaccessible to everyone, because we're all on disability."

Joanne, 56, suffered for 20 years with debilitating arthritis after a lifetime working in a heavy truck manufacturing plant.

A year ago she became licensed to grow her own prescription of medicinal marijuana. Six months ago she started using the oil capsules.

"I don't think I can live without the oil; I don't want to go back that way," she said. "I feel it's important enough to tell people there's a gentle way of getting rid of the pain without having to be on these oxycontin and morphine. People need an option."

Van Kesteren agrees medicinal marijuana is working for some people, but said the government is concerned about the risk to individual growers from groups that would exploit them.

"What are we doing to protect that person even from getting approached by a criminal element saying you are now going to give us eight plants a month?" said Van Kesteren.

Health Canada has opened up public consultations on the matter until the end of March, said Van Kesteren.

"The majority of people I'm convinced are totally legit like Joanne. They're making good use of this and it's making a beneficial impact on their life and making a real change," said Van Kesteren. "Unfortunately, it's gotten a little out of hand and we need to have better control."

He said the changes will be taking place in early 2014.

Joanne hopes the government can find a solution allowing the individual grow-ops to maintain their status alongside the corporately run facilities.

"They need to embrace it, it's here, people want this for their health. This is not about getting high, we're not concerned about that. People are using it for life-altering changes to get a better health," said Joanne. "If they want to have corporations supply it, that's fine but don't take the personal grow licences away. There's room for both."