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Pot humanitarian Kicked out of his house

Parents take dim view of bid to supply weed for medical purposes

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Caption: Warren Hitzig says he's paid a personal price for weed work for the unwell.

By CARL WARREN

When Warren Hitzig zips up the steps to meet me. I'm surprised to see that the pioneering force behind the for-profit Medical Marijuana Resource Centre (MMRC) is a clean-cut, suburban-looking kid. I had expected a pot punk, perhaps the kind decked in Kensington Market cannabis crests and long un-kempt locks, but a poster boy for milk emerges instead.

Hitzig diligently uses his spare moments before our interview to return calls. His pager rings almost every 10 minutes. It's like this from 11:30 in the morning to 12:30 at night," he tells me frenetically. His voice smooth and highpitched at the same time.

Willing doctors

Starting the MMRC a year ago, his mission was to find willing doctors to issue pot prescriptions, to score the finest stock in the city for the ailing and to find an agreeable landlord to house his operation, all tasks that require considerable public relations panache.

"I've tried to get out in the main-stream as much as possible," he says, chain-puffing du Maurier cigarettes later at the Green Room on Bloor.

"The papers have been a real help letting the public know what we're doing."

But the kid has doubts. He pulls out the clippings. Referring to a mug shot of himself published in the Sun nestled beside a headline screaming "Medicinal pot dealers sing the blues," he wonders out loud whether or not such exposure is all its cracked up to be.

"Photos, yeah. I'm not sure whether I should be doing them," he says. Every reporter has misquoted or misrepresented me."

Prior to the he stories, he says he never permitted anyone to photograph him.

Selling his project to the media was only one of Hitzig's troubles. Upon discovering that the son they were so proud of was a pot pharmacist, Mr. and Ms. Hitzig efected him from the household.

His dad (a businessperson) hasn't spoken a word to him in three months. Then George Brown College expelled him from its early childhood education program because of his extra-curricular activities, he says.

"We're raised to do the right thing and this is the right thing to do." he says philosophically.

As he describes what some might painfully recount as a life destined for the gutter he never cracks a frown amidst his happy-go-lucky exuberance. I wonder if he's going to curl up in a fetal position and ball his eyes out after the interview.

But Hitzig prefers not to dwell on personal details, because they're irrelevant to the reason he seeks media attention in the first place. His top priority, he says, is making sure people know that his group is not the street variety of potpadlars.

Contained within the group's mission statement is a commitment to inform the public about therapeutic cannabis use and the sale of pot to patients who need it.

Ganja goods

He adds that there are strict criteria for or being able to buy his goods. You must satisfy membership requirements.

Those include suffering from a terminal illness, having a doctor 's note or being over 65. Eligible members then have to provide a letter allowing release of medical information. According to Hitzig's information, MMRC has enlisted approximately 30 members, many of whom are HIV-positive, or have cancer or multiple sclerosis.

Members can choose from a range of fairly priced smokable and edible cannabis products at our walk-in centre... It's time to turn over a new leaf," states a brochure.

Beyond clarifying the formal role of his organization, Hitzig frequently expresses his conviction that patients shouldn't have to go underground in order to purchase some relief from their pain.

"Canada was rated number one by the United Nations," he says, "But why does Canada - with such a great health care system - not provide these drugs?"

Some might see this as youthful idealism, but I think he's also working on sound business principles.



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