It's high time medical marijuana users on P.E.I. were offered the product at a reasonable cost, says Charlottetown's Kier Kenny.
Kenny is helping to organize a grow-op co-op to offer Islanders who need medical marijuana an alternative to the incoming production facility that is supposed to be built in the P.E.I. BioCommons in Charlottetown.
Kenny said the group plans to grow an acre of hemp, a commonly used term for high growing varieties of the Cannabis plant and its products, which include fibre, oil and seed.
"We have formed a co-op and what we're doing this year is we're going to grow an acre of hemp so that we can show the government that we can grow it for pennies on the pound,'' Kenny said in an interview on Wednesday.
"Basically, we want to do a test project and we want to use the hemp for oils and for clothing and stuff like that in order to develop some markets.''
He said there are roughly 100 licensed medical marijuana users across the province. Right now people can grow their own or buy it from Health Canada but that will change on April 1 when new federal regulations take effect. Instead, they will have to buy it from a Health Canada-approved licensed producer.
Since The Guardian's interview with Kenny, a Federal Court judge issued an injunction stating that anyone presently licensed to grow the drug will be allowed to do so.
Judge Michael Manson issued an injunction last Friday exempting patients who are licensed to possess or grow medical marijuana under the current rules, either for themselves or someone else, from new regulations that would have made the practice illegal.
Charlottetown city council gave the green light by amending the zoning and development bylaw last month. Essentially, council made sure to restrict where such a facility could exist to business or industrial zones. Council didn't have any choice with the new federal regulations coming into effect.
Edwin Jewell, owner of Jewell's Country Market in York, is one of 10 investors in the new operation and they hope to be inspected and operational by the fall.
However, Kenny is concerned about what it's going to cost users.
Health Canada projects the cost will be $7.60 per gram this year with it increasing to $8.80 as the market matures in several years.
Kenny said the co-op wants to offer it at a much cheaper price.
"Our intention from the get-go is to sell the product to the client at cost. We will offer the product to people other than our client base on P.E.I. and that will be at a higher ticket price.
"The big problem is that the poor people have nowhere to go. You and I are working but (there are people who are sick) and not able to work. These are the people I'm talking about.''
While the Health Canada-approved facilities have to be constructed in a highly secure fashion, Kenny says the co-op wants to grow their product outside. Of course, there's a difference between growing hemp and marijuana.
Kenny said the co-op members don't have any issue with Jewell and his partners. They simply want to offer an alternative to those who can't afford to pay that the market will be charging.