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CN ON: Edu: Canadian Cannabis Culture

Newshawk: Herb
Pubdate: Thu, 08 Dec 2005
Source: Newspaper, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Newspaper
Author: Nitzan Rotenberg
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Cannabis cultivation--what Ian Mulgrew qualifies as "a victimless pursuit"--in Canada has been increasing. Albeit illegal, marijuana has become the country's most valuable agricultural product, surpassing wheat, timber and cattle.

Mulgrew is the author of Bud Inc. the latest book to join the discourse on Canada's cannabis industry. He believes in the legalization--not decriminalization--of marijuana, and thinks that this will ultimately come about from the drug's medicinal properties.

The active ingredient in marijuana, taxonomically designated Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indicia, is the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ) and is found in the leaves, flowers and buds of the plant. It was only in 1964 that THC was identified as the active narcotic agent

The two strains of Cannabis, sativa and indicia produce a high and stone respectively. A `high' correlates to a more active, cerebral experience--for example, a lot of rapid thoughts--while a `stone' is defined by its more subdued, reflective affect.

There is a cannabis grading system that determines the quality and monetary worth of a product. A AAA-grading is reserved for product which is formed of tight clusters, a lot of resin and has a floral, eucalyptus smell. A level below is A-quality, typically grown outdoors and has relatively looser buds. BBB bud has a chemical taste, and leaves a black ash after being burnt.

The process for growing top quality weed, adapted from Inside Dope, Forbes, 2003:

A grower needs lights; using 1,000-watt metal halide lights to blast clones for 24 hours a day, following with 12-hour intervals of dark to induce budding, a half-year growth cycle is reduced to ten weeks.

Genetics are important, as breeding stock is critical for high end product. Branches of the best female plants are cut and planted, with the genetically identical offspring subsequently cloned.

The air temperature is kept in the 70s; adding carbon dioxide increases production and betters quality.

The quality of dirt--or hydroponics or aeroponics--is improved with nitrogen for growth, beneficial fungi and bacteria to increase THC levels and phosphorous and potassium for the resinous flowers.

Canada's cannabis industry, although producing less than the state of California, is lucrative.

Mulgrew cites figures calculated by Dr. Stephen T. Easton, an economist at the Simon Fraser Institute. Based on numbers for 2003, Easton has estimated that across the country the marijuana industry was worth $5.7 billion wholesale and $19.5 billion when applied to high-end retail pricing

Macleans recently polled Canadians' for their opinion whether Canada should relax its laws concerning the possession and use of marijuana. The results--listed November 5, 2005 on Macleans' online site--showed 62 percent in support of legalization, 20 percent in favor of decriminalization and 18 percent who think that marijuana should remain an illegal substance.

Cannabis is considered illegal under the 1996 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Sections four to seven of the Act render the respective possession, trafficking, import and export and cultivation of cannabis criminal activities.

The Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs of Canada's House of Commons defines "decriminalization" as the removal of criminal sanctions for specified criminal acts while retaining legal prohibition, for example, fines.

"By designating as contraventions, those offences relating to the possession or cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, the proposed decriminalization scheme would leave existing criminal sanctions in place to allow the full force of the law to continue to be brought to bear against anyone who traffic in or cultivates cannabis for profit," the committee's 2002 report states.

Ian Mulgrew disagrees. Decriminalization is a "half measure" that will only concretize the black market and strengthen criminal organizations.

The underlying problem of prohibition, Mulgrew contends, is that it keeps intact a law that is not respected-- this ensues "corrosive damage to the social fabric."

The fact that there is flagrant disobedience erodes and illegitimates the entire legal structure. Mulgrew suggests perpetual effects, for example diminishing respect for law enforcement and the legal courts.

The International Center for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy in British Columbia released a report on the Strategic Approaches to the Control and Prosecution of Marihuana Growing and Trafficking Offences. The report recognizes the "relative inability of the current criminal justice system to limit the ability of criminal organizations to conduct and benefit [from cannabis activities as] =85 arguably the most powerful argument in favor" of reforming the current methods of control.

A veteran Canadian journalist, Mulgrew began his career in Ontario. He was named West Coast Bureau Chief for the Globe and Mail in 1981 and posted to Vancouver. He has lived in Vancouver since and he currently writes a legal affairs column for the Vancouver Sun.

When Mulgrew's mother was diagnosed with Cancer at the age of 70, he began to get more involved in the cannabis industry--particularly in marijuana as a prescription drug.

Mulgrew says he learned how difficult the government marijuana plan was to "get into." This was an initial step for his decision to write a book on public policy and the laws prohibiting marijuana.

In 1989 specific brain receptors for THC were identified. The receptors are activated by a neurotransmitter called anandaminde, a member of a group of chemicals known as cannabinoids. THC is a cannabinoid chemical and its anandaminde-like behavior enables it to connect to cannabinoid receptors.

There are clear medicinal implications.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon is a professor at Harvard University Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry. Grinspoon has been studying cannabis since 1967.

Dr. Grinspoon is an advocate for the beneficial, medicinal qualities of the marijuana plant. For example, Cancer patients can find relief in marijuana as an appetite stimulate and as a mood elevator--also useful for patients who suffer from AIDS. Most commonly, marijuana is commissioned for its capacity to prevent nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy.

In October of 1997, Grinspoon testified before the Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representative to the potential medical applications of marijuana, from treating glaucoma and seizures, to reducing pain--particularly in cases that accompany muscle spasm, as with "victims of traumatic nerve injury, and people suffering from multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. Many of them have discovered that cannabis not only allows them to avoid the risk of other drugs, but also reduces muscle spasms and tremors."

"The years of effort devoted to showing that marihuana is exceedingly dangerous have proved the opposite. It is safer, with few serious side effects, than most prescription medicines, and far less addictive or subject to abuse than many drugs now used in muscle relaxants, hypnotics and analgesics," Grinspoon said before the House committee.

The case for marijuana as a prescription drug made its way into the Canadian courts. On January 9, 2003 in the case R. v. Hitzig Justice Lederman of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations ( MNAR ) to be unconstitutional, as the MNAR prohibits seriously ill Canadians access to and the use of Marijuana because there is no legal source of supply.

Even with the legalization of marijuana as a prescription drug, there still remains the question of whether to adopt the legal status of marijuana for ordinary purposes--toking and cultivating--and if so, how.

In his paper, Marijuana Growth in British Columbia, Easton offers a solution under the chapter heading Legalization in Canada: Suppose We Tax it Like Other Sins?: a tax, in effect like the tax on tobacco cigarettes. By Easton's calculations, at present a marijuana cigarettes costs around $1.50 to produce, and sells for about $8.60. Easton proposes a tax "on marijuana cigarettes equal to the difference between the local production cost and the street price." At revenue of approximately $7 per cigarette this brings the total revenue to over $2 billion.

"Importantly, this approach has the effect of transferring to the government revenue currently received by illegal producers as reward for their cost of production and risk," Easton states.

Mulgrew says that marijuana is considered "bad" because it is illegal, and not because of any intrinsically condemning qualities. The idea is that there was a verdict before the trial. On his personal website, Dr. Grinspoon posts a quote by an Acoma Pueblo poet named Simon Ortiz; it reads, "there are no truths, only stories".

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