Medical marijuana users say they’ll go underground

KELOWNA – A Kelowna man is sounding the alarm about impending dramatic changes to the medical marijuana business.

Under the new rules, people who are licensed to possess marijuana for medical purposes will no longer be able to grow their own or purchase marijuana from small scale producers.

Richard Palson says the changes will mean medical marijuana users will not be able to afford their medicine and will also drive the business underground.

The 49-year-old Kelowna man had big dreams — studying to become a construction engineer, but in 2005 his life came crashing down in a construction accident that nearly severed his spine.

“Well, it was like I had lost my life. I had lost everything. I had lost the ability to earn a living, to take care of my kids and myself. All my ambitions of becoming an engineer went down the drain. It was a big blow.”

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At first, Palson was put in a wheelchair and was taking up to 30 pills a day to cope with the pain and spasms. Through extensive rehab, he slowly regained control of his legs, but the pills were killing him.

“Although I was happy to get my legs back, I was losing the rest of my body, my liver, my kidneys.”

So he weaned himself off the meds and looked to medical marijuana as a substitute.

“I did what I needed to do to get off meds and found a physician who would agree to sign for my medical cannabis exemption.”

Palson smokes 300 grams a month at a cost of less than $100.  But under the new federal regulations that take effect in April,  Palson says he’ll have to doll out thousands to a designated commercial grower.

“It will cost me exactly $2630 which is basically four times what disability pays me.”

Palson says he and other medical marijuana users will have no choice but to break the law in order to afford to keep smoking medical marijuana.

“I know for a fact that it’s going to go underground because for one, the price is going to go above the price of black market cannabis.”

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Palson says many are going to resort to homegrown.

“Some of us are going to go illegal and grow our own medicine.”

A group of lawyers have filed an injunction in BC Supreme Court, arguing the new medical marijuana regulations are unconstitutional.

A decision is expected March 18.