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Church St. Resident Doesn't Want His Balcony Pot Farm

Jim Wakeford has had 19 girls living on his apartment balconies since July.

"I call them my upstairs girls and my downstairs girls," he said. "Aren't they pretty?"

But they won't be there much longer.

It's harvest time in medical marijuana land.

And Wakeford's "girls" - 1-metre-high cloned British Columbia marijuana plants of various
strains - are being gathered in what is believed to be Canada's first federally sanctioned pot

Wakeford, who has AIDS, is among the first of 71 chronically ill Canadians granted
exemptions from Ottawa that allow them to use marijuana to treat their symptoms without
being prosecuted for drug offences.

But since buying pot still carries the risk of criminal charges, Wakeford says he's been forced
to grow his own.

And while his first crop may look promising - bushy green plants with pink flowers fill his
front balcony, overlooking Church St. - Wakeford is angry about having to do a job he
believes is a federal responsibility.

As part of a long battle to get Ottawa to supply sick Canadians with the drug, Wakeford and
his lawyers have taken their case to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Arguments are expected
this fall.

A balcony pot farm is labour-intensive and expensive, Wakeford says.

In his case, creating it involved flying to B. C. to get plants from a contact willing to supply
them, providing a continuous light source in the seedling stage, and weekly fertilizing.

"It's taken about 10 people to help me, because I'm not well enough."

Wakeford's friend Barrie Dalley, who also has an exemption, doesn't have a balcony. He's
struggling to grow his plants near a window. But they're small, and his exemption only allows
him to grow three at a time, a point he thinks Health Minister Allan Rock should ponder.

"I'm wondering how Mr. Rock thinks three plants, which can only be grown about once in
this Canadian season, is supposed to give enough medicine to a Canadian for the whole year."

Osgoode Hall law school professor

Rock recently decided the federal government will supply medical marijuana to Canadians
with exemptions, said spokesperson Roslyn Tremblay. But the process cannot begin until a
supplier is chosen, and the government will go through the necessary steps this fall, she

The government received 71 bids in a tendering process that closed in June. Documents
prepared for the tender say the supplier will be required to grow 605 kilograms of marijuana
in differing concentrations over five years, plus conduct lab tests, produce rolled cigarettes
and establish a bulk supply of the drug.

But Osgoode Hall law school professor Alan Young, one of two lawyers representing
Wakeford, said Rock and federal bureaucrats are moving in different directions.

Documents for the bidding process speak only of growing marijuana for clinical trials, which
means sick people would have to qualify for the trials to get a supply, Young said.

"There is no other medicine that is distributed in such a cavalier manner."

Young and lawyer Louis Sokolov are also asking the appeal court for an exemption from
prosecution for caregivers who help cultivate the plants.

Meanwhile, with a snip of his red-handled pruning shears, Wakeford continues his harvest.

First, he cuts down the entire plant and has it hung upside down in a drying room for seven to
10 days. Because flowers are a key ingredient, only female plants are used.

Wakeford will share his harvest with four friends, including Dalley, who have exemptions or
are in the process of getting them. While his plants have taken all summer to grow, the
supply should last about two months, he said, stepping back into his apartment.

Nearby is a table piled with documents relating to his court battles.

One strikes Wakeford as somewhat funny. It confirms that Ottawa supplies pot to police
forces to train drug-sniffing dogs, he says.

"They'll provide it for dogs, but not to people who are sick."

MAP posted-by: Richard Lake
Newshawk: Dave Haans
Pubdate: Sat, 30 Sep 2000
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Toronto Star
Contact: lettertoed@thestar.com
Address: One Yonge St., Toronto ON, M5E 1E6
Fax: (416) 869-4322
Website: thestar.com | Toronto Star | Canada's largest daily
Forum: http://www.thestar.com/editorial/disc_board/
Author: Tracey Tyler, Legal Affairs reporter
Bookmarks: Terry Parker:
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