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Treating trauma focus of medical marijuana firm

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Medical marijuana giving Barrie man his life back

Post by Guest on Thu 28 Apr 2016, 16:29

Farmers' plants are sprouting up a little more green than red in Leamington, ONT., these days.

Once colloquially called the ketchup capital of Canada, many farmers in the southern Ontario town were left holding their empty tomato baskets when Heinz Canada moved its business south of the border in 2014, putting 750 people out of work.

But fourth-generation farmer John Cervini and third-generation farmer Cole Cacciavillani decided if they were already capable of growing food crops and flowers, they'd do just as well growing marijuana.


“Four years ago, my brother bought me out of the family business and Cole and I said, 'well, we're experienced growers and marijuana is fundamentally a plant',” Cervini said, as he pulled on a lab coat, hair net and booties for the tour of his factory, which is a very secure greenhouse.

“If you had told me then, four years ago, what I'd be doing, I'd have looked at you weird. The hard part was telling my parents – they're in their 70s – but they were cool with it,” he said.

Right off the bat, the men knew they weren't going to grow anything in a warehouse.

Pooling together their resources, they opened Aphria, using one acre of a parcel of nine acres Cacciavillani already owned and still grows and sells flowering plants on.

Cervini said they've cut their hydro rates by half, using natural sunlight to grow their 20,000 buds from stock to flowering plant by using natural sunlight until the last stage of the growing process.

While Cervini may be easy-going, security is tight.

Card locks and keys are required to enter any door. A barbed-wire, chain-link fence surrounds the building and a laser alarm system criss-crosses the lawn between the fence and building.

Visitors must wear hair nets, lab coats and booties and sign in and out at every door, of which there are many.

An earthy, citrus smell permeates the air inside the greenhouse. In the halls and laboratories, filters keep the air clean and dry, with the drying room changing air (to keep moisture out) seven times each hour.

More than 50 workers pick, dry, compress and package the 16 varieties of marijuana grown to strict government specifications; samples are sent to federally run laboratories to ensure its policy of zero level of microbials is maintained.

Aphria has more than 4,000 patients across Canada, with the majority in Ontario. All marijuana is prescribed for patients by licensed physicians and product is delivered and signed for by Canada Post or Purolator.

Most patients are prescribed 150 grams, which would average 200 rolled joints.

But many people don't smoke the product, Cervini said. Many eat or use a vaporizer to ingest their formerly homegrown medicine.

In fact, the sterile cannabis oil laboratory which should be up and running shortly (once approved by Health Canada), will offer doctors the option of prescribing an oil that can be taken in droplet form as required.

Regardless of which product they prefer, patients are able to determine if they require a stronger tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) drug used to quell anxiety, insomnia and depression symptoms or a product with more cannabidiol (CBD) which has a non-psychoactive effect but helps with pain.

Cervini said now that the shock of opening (March 2014) and becoming a publicly traded company (December 2014) have passed, he's still amazed by letters he receives from patients who use their products.

“When Cole and I started, we never imagined that part of it. The amount of patients who've called to thank us, saying this has made a huge difference in their lives, still surprises us,” he said.

Patients like David Hutchinson, a Canadian forces veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

The 55-year-old Barrie man said when he was in high school in Sudbury, he had a dream of becoming a helicopter pilot, so he visited a recruiting centre in 1980 and joined the armed forces.

He didn't become a pilot, but with a decade, Hutchinson was working in 429 Tactical Squadron as a load master.

In 1994, he was on tour in Rwanda when the fighting between the Hutus and Tutsis broke out. By the end of the civil war, approximately 800,000 people were dead.

“A lot of horrors were seen,” Hutchinson said. “After that I went to Sarajevo (during the Bosnian war) a couple of times, too. I've seen how cruel humans can be to other humans. I remember bodies floating by in the water in Rwanda.

“I remember too much.”

Hutchinson said he doesn't know when the symptoms of PTSD began to appear, but it may have been when he began waking up his wife by thrashing and screaming in bed with nightmares.

That marriage ended in ruin (as did several others) as his anxiety and depression grew.

“People say just accept it. That's not the point. It's like a scar, it heals over time, but you can always look at it and see it there. These are emotional scars. They lessen but they're always there. They never go away,” he said.

After years of trying to drown his sorrows with alcohol, Hutchinson spoke with a case manager about trying medical marijuana last summer.

Learning the difference between THC and CBD and how much of which plant he requires to feel good but not goofy, has been a learning curve.

But as he says, he's finally learning how to deal with his demons.

“It's not going to make you feel normal like you did before the trauma. I'm never going to be the man I once was,” Hutchinson said. “But with marijuana and a doctor I speak with, I'm learning to cope. I've come a long way from where I was.”

And so have area municipalities.

In June of 2015, Barrie councillors gave initial approval to sell 36-48 Rawson Ave. to Skytek Pharmaceuticals so it could build a $7-million, 65,000-square-foot medical marijuana facility that could employ 120 people.
The city would sell this 4.8-acre site for $600,000 and the deal was tentatively set to close late last August.
But the closing date has been delayed due to pending changes in federal medical marijuana regulations.
City staff say Skytech remains committed to proceeding with its development in Barrie, and staff are working with Skytek on confirming a closing date.
Just recently, Bradford West Gwillimbury (BWG) town councillors approved an application to Health Canada for a medical marijuana facility in the vacant Faurecia plant on Reagens Industrial Parkway that has sat empty for more than a year.

In its presentation to council, Med Releaf, which already operates a 55,000 square-foot facility in Markham, is proposing to expand by locating in Bradford.

Med Releaf expects to hire 250 people to grow marijuana, fill orders, provide customer service, administration and research and development on the property, with a possible expansion of 100 part-time positions in the ensuing 12 to 24 months.

BWG Mayor Robert Keffer said when he weighed the pros and cons of approving a medical marijuana facility, it wasn't a difficult decision.

“Other than the perception and when you get past that – because these are regulated by Health Canada and have stringent conditions they must work under – this is bringing a new business and jobs to our town and a product that relieves the pain and suffering of a lot of people,” Keffer said.


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Treating trauma focus of medical marijuana firm

Post by Guest on Wed 27 Apr 2016, 18:21

Veterans, civilians and first responders seeking relief from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other ailments through cannabis will have a new option for help next week.

Set to open Monday on Discovery Avenue in Kingston’s east side, Marijuana for Trauma Inc.’s new Kingston branch is to be the company’s largest in Ontario.

The new office is to help people access marijuana through their health benefits programs and offer advice about how they can best use it to ease their illnesses.

While many organizations are opening up to help people access medical marijuana, Marijauna for Trauma focuses on helping veterans.

“There are a lot of places that are popping up that are one-trick ponies. Not us,” said company president Chris Dupee, who founded Military Minds, a peer support organization for soldiers with operational stress injuries, such as PTSD.

“We’re a family. We’re trying to recreate the military brotherhood outside of the military.”

But the company and its supporters plan the new branch to offer more than just marijuana advice.

The Kingston branch is considered a Generation 2 store. The company’s original stores were smaller and only connected veterans with ways to access cannabis.

“Cannabis starts being a small portion of what we do,” former soldier and veterans advocate Mike Collins said. “It’s a component.”

The new store is to provide access to social workers and massage therapists. The office is also to provide peer support nights, music and art therapy sessions and spousal support meetings.

“We watched statistics for years of Afghan vets, Bosnian vets going through some very, very severe things, up to and including suicide. Divorce rates were skyrocketing, booze, pill usage. Guys getting arrested. Homeless veterans falling through the social cracks,” Collins said.

“And now we can get this fixed with a plant? Why are we not doing this?”

The Kingston store’s opening comes at a time of easing attitudes toward medical marijuana and follows two separate political shifts dealing with PTSD and marijuana.

Earlier this month, the Ontario government passed legislation that creates a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related.

And last week the federal government announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana.

While Canadian society may be relaxing its view on marijuana, Andrew Brown, Marijuana for Trauma’s Ontario vice-president, said the Canadian Forces has been slower to change.

“We don’t even help serving soldiers get prescribed cannabis unless they have a release message in hand, because some people in military community viewed us a threat to operational security for a while because serving soldiers would be prescribed,” Brown said.

“The army hasn’t caught up to the general population’s opinion on medical cannabis.”

Mike Collins, who himself has a medical marijuana prescription, has no such reservations about what it can do for him and other veterans.

“I know guys that were basically shut-ins. Now they are taking their kids to hockey games, they’re getting out shopping with their wives, they are doing more family stuff, they are going on vacations again,” Collins said.

“That stuff was just unheard of. It can be debilitating. Post-traumatic stress can be debilitating.”


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