Upstairs in his mother’s barn in Conway, just outside Digby, Shawn Harvey has hundreds of cannabis plants.
He has two rooms up there, built out of white fiberglass paper and hung with bright lights; one room contains 60 large plants—they get a warm yellow light—and across the hall are a couple hundred younger plants under cooler white lights. The large plants are budding and almost ready to harvest; the smaller plants will be the next crop.
It’s all legal until March 31 under the federal Marihuana Medical Access Program.
Harvey has a prescription that allows him to use 14 grams of marijuana a day; he has a Personal-Use Production Licence that allows him to have 69 plants in production.
“It’s a ridiculous amount,” says Harvey. “I couldn’t smoke it all if I started first thing in the morning and smoked all day.”
Harvey wore his back out working on scallop draggers.
“Bent over with your hands around your ankles is not a healthy position to work in,” says Harvey.
He has a herniated disk and uses cannabis, about three or four grams a day he says, to handle the pain.
“My pain is with me all the time, there is no getting away from it,” he says. “Cannabis gives me some relief, it’s a warm feeling of relief.”
Currently they are three ways for Canadians with a prescription for medical marijuana to source their medication.
They can buy it from Health Canada, they can grow their own or they can appoint someone else to grow it for them.
None of those options will exist come April 1.
Harvey and the other 37,000 Canadians with a personal-use production licence will have to destroy their plants and buy their cannabis from a federally licensed producer.
The federal government says it’s changing the rules because the system is “open to abuse” and they say the new system will allow cannabis dosage and potency to be standardized and it will cut down on criminal activity like theft from growers and home invasions.
The federal government has so far licensed nine companies to produce medical marijuana in Canada.
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Harvey expects the companies will be charging upwards of $10 a gram. He estimates it costs him between $2 to $4 a gram to grow his own.
Harvey originally was prescribed other painkillers and pills for his pain but was scared of a serious addiction and other side effects.
Cannabis worked better for him but he says he can’t afford to buy cannabis from the companies and doesn’t see why he should have to, in his words, “make them rich.”
“Cannabis is a natural herb, it grows naturally on the planet, versus pills manufactured by a pharmaceutical corporation,” says Harvey. “I’m not an overly religious person but it says right on the first page of the Bible that God gave us every herb and plant to use.”
Harvey is referring to Genesis 1:29, near the end of the first chapter of the Bible where God says, “Let there be light” and there was light.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
Harvey doesn’t think it’s right for the government and these companies to be making money off people with illness and says he will keep growing his own.
He says he will move his plants away from his mother’s property because he doesn’t want her to be involved.
But he says he’ll take his chances in court.
“If 12 members of my community find me guilty, then so be it,” he said. “I’ll take my chances in front of 12 members of my community.”