April 28, 2003
Eric Nash and his wife, Wendy Little, grow the healthiest legal pot in Canada.
Nash and Little are the first federally licensed medical marijuana growers in Canada to have their crop officially certified 100 per cent organic.
It’s a healthy bonus for the thousands of Canadians who could use it to ease suffering from a wide range of conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis and AIDS, Nash said in an interview at his home in this Vancouver Island community about 70 kilometres north of Victoria.
The Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia, an organization likely more accustomed to monitoring the production of carrots or spinach, granted Nash and Little certified organic status this month.
In British Columbia, where the RCMP says that black market marijuana worth billions is the province’s largest cash crop, Nash displayed his organic certification like a badge of honour.
Nash, 44, and Little, 41, do not fit the stereotype of typical marijuana growers or pot smokers.
Both graduated from university with honours, Little in education and Nash in visual arts. They have an eight-year-old daughter and live in an attractive, art-filled home in an older Duncan neighbourhood.
Nash, a Web site designer and former professional horticulturist, remarked organic certification is a step forward in the slow march toward getting Ottawa to acknowledge that marijuana has wide-ranging medicinal qualities.
“It’s raising the credibility of medicinal marijuana as a legitimate medicine, as a safe medicine, as an alternative medicine to all the pharmaceuticals and other things that people tried that don’t work,” Nash noted.
People who are sick or in pain deserve access to medicine-what Nash called his marijuana-grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, he says.
“I want to ensure these people are getting certified organic marijuana for their health problem,” Nash said. “I want people to know it’s been inspected every step of the way, from the soils to the fertilizers.”
He gladly admitted telling an agricultural feed store employee recently that he was growing organic marijuana for medicinal purposes, legally.
“Her jaw just about dropped on the floor,” Nash said.
Nash and Little are two of the 36 Canadians licensed by Health Canada to produce medical marijuana for ill people.
The federal Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, enacted in July 2001, allow people to apply to legally grow their own marijuana or designate a grower for their supply.
Ottawa granted Prairie Plant Systems Inc., a five-year, $5.7-million contract in 2000 to grow marijuana in an old copper mine in Flin Flon, Man.
But Health Canada has said it will not make any of its Flin Flon marijuana available to patients because it wants to see scientific proof about whether the drug is effective.
Nash says the medicinal marijuana approval process is complicated and requires completion of lengthy forms by patients and their doctors.
“An incredible amount of people don’t feel comfortable asking their doctor for cannabis for medicine,” he mentioned. “Many feel the doctor will think, ‘I’m just asking for pot.’”
Nash provides his organic medical marijuana to a Vancouver Island woman with MS and his wife supplies marijuana to an Edmonton man, also with MS.
Licensed growers are permitted by law to distribute marijuana to one person and it must be on a non-profit basis, said Nash.
The couple applied to Health Minister Anne McLellan last January to supply their marijuana to more than one patient each, but haven’t yet heard from Ottawa.
Nash and Little said they became involved in the medical marijuana issue for compassionate reasons.
Little’s father was suffering from arthritis and Parkinson’s disease and wanted to know about the possibility of using medical marijuana to ease his pain, she said.
Her father never ended up trying marijuana because he was concerned about breaking the law, but the medical marijuana issue continued to grow for the couple.
Nash designed a Web site for people to discuss medical marijuana issues, which now has turned www.medicalmarihuana.ca into one of the leading marijuana sites on the Internet, with 500,000 hits monthly.
It has been noted as a national reference by the Canadian AIDS Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
“We get so many e-mails from patients in pain,” said Nash. “There’s a huge need for someone to supply these people.”
One e-mail from a woman with MS reported marijuana helps relieve her constant pain, stops muscle spasms, stimulates her appetite and allows her to sleep comfortably. But she can’t get approval for a supply of medical marijuana.
“While Anne McLellan twiddles her thumbs and feels uncomfortable with the whole issue, I am forced to get my medicine from the street,” she said. “I guess that keeps the police well paid and the bureaucrats happy.”
Ted Smith, a Victoria medical marijuana advocate, estimated up to 250,000 Canadians could benefit from medical marijuana.
Marijuana can be used for relief of pain and nausea and it stimulates appetite and the mind, he remarked.
“There’s nothing that melts your heart more than when you see a lady
in her 90s with a couple of (marijuana) cookies and a smile on her face,”
said Smith, currently facing charges of possession of marijuana for the
purposes of trafficking.
Copyright © 2003, Canadian Press