First Marijuana Teahouse In Canada Allows Those With Exemptions To Use
Medicinal Dope

Yoram Adler wore a deep maroon-coloured sports jacket, a bold striped
shirt, a flowery tie and taupe slacks with a sharp crease yesterday to the
opening of the first public marijuana teahouse in Canada.

His attire reflected the seriousness of the moment. After years of playing
cat-and-mouse games with authorities, marijuana activists are making their
strongest bid yet for legitimacy.

The HC Marijuana Users Teahouse of Canada, located in the weary eastern
edge of Vancouver's downtown, is the first in the country to take advantage
of regulations governing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes that
took effect on Aug. 1.

"We're a product of the new regulations," Mr. Adler said in an interview.
"We're implementing them."

Mr. Adler is part of a group of marijuana advocates and supporters who
opened the teahouse as a self-supporting business. The teahouse is intended
to offer a place for people who are sick and exempt from the country's
marijuana laws to take their medicinal marijuana, listen to music and
socialize.

The 39-year-old businessman, who has experience in marketing, sales and
managing retail outlets, said the teahouse marks a turning point in
attitudes to marijuana in Canada.

Since the issue is no longer legalization of marijuana use, the teahouse
owners are preoccupied more with compliance with Health Canada regulations
and city business-licence rules. If the teahouse is used for any illegal
activities, the owners expect police to intervene.

"The whole point of this place is to get medicinal marijuana out of the
hands of drug dealers and other people who have a vested interest in
illegal cannabis production," said Michael Maniotis, one of Mr. Adler's
partners.

"Billions of dollars are circulating here in an underground economy. I
agree [with police], if there is illegal activity here, then it should be
stopped."

Under the new rules, people who are expected to die within 12 months or
have severe illnesses -- such as cancer or chronic conditions such as
multiple sclerosis or AIDS -- can possess marijuana. They can also grow it
or have someone grow it for them.

Marijuana is reported to be an effective painkiller.

About 100 British Columbians and more than 200 people in other parts of
Canada have been issued permits to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Ottawa hired a Saskatoon-based company to grow marijuana in a former copper
mine shaft near Flin Flon, 650 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, for people
who meet the federal requirements for medicinal marijuana. But those who
qualify may buy the drug from any designated grower approved by the federal
government.

The Merlin Project, the group that opened the teahouse, connects certified
users with designated growers, Mr. Adler said. The group does not sell or
provide marijuana. Licensed users must bring their own marijuana to the
teahouse.

The teahouse is in the former coffee shop of the Avalon Hotel, a low-
income residential hotel. The walls are covered with murals of mushrooms, a
fire-breathing dragon and a pirate ship.

Admission to the teahouse is restricted to people 18 or over. Patrons must
also buy a membership for $10 a month or a $1 day pass. The group has sold
about 2,000 memberships.

Teapots are stacked on the shelves by the front door. Eventually, the
Health Canada-licensed patrons and their friends could also shop there for
vaporizers and other marijuana-related merchandise.

The central area of the teahouse, with tables and barstools, accommodates
about 100 people. The teahouse serves sandwiches, cookies and a wide
variety of teas. At the back, there is a separate room for those permitted
to use medicinal marijuana.

The marijuana will be rolled into cigarettes when recommended by a
specialist, although smoking marijuana is a crude way to deliver the drug,
Mr. Adler said.

"We recommend ingesting it. It's the safest and most effective way," Mr.
Adler said. The marijuana may be ingested as a tea, mixed with butter or
put in a vaporizer.

The organizers plan a museum with displays about the history of marijuana
prohibition and featuring the first public demonstration of a
marijuana-growing operation certified by Health Canada. The marijuana will
be produced for a person with HIV.

The teahouse was opened yesterday with a one-day special permit from
Vancouver city hall. But the Merlin Project must obtain city approval to
stay in business, the city's chief licence inspector Paul Teichroeb said in
an interview. It could take about eight weeks to go through city hall after
an application has been submitted.

Mr. Adler said the group hopes to keep the doors open until final approval
is given, possibly using special permits for fundraisers. The events would
raise money to help groups certified by Health Canada as qualified
marijuana growers.

A young man with a spinal cord injury who uses a wheelchair and declined to
give his name said he was pleased to see the teahouse had opened. "A lot of
people have a permit to use [marijuana] but do not have a stable home. This
is a safe place to use it," he said in an interview at the teahouse.

He received a one-year Health Canada permit to possess marijuana about one
week ago, eight weeks after he started the application process. The Merlin
Project helped him find a marijuana grower who was approved by Health Canada.

He eats the marijuana or bakes with it. With respiratory problems, he is
unable to smoke it. "It helps with the muscle spasms and the pain," the
22-year-old computer science student said.

Police have not yet decided how they will respond to the new business. "We
have not been brought up to speed on how we are supposed to police it,"
Vancouver police spokesman Scott Driemel said.


Newshawk: CMAP
Pubdate: Thu, 01 Nov 2001
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2001, The Globe and Mail Company
Contact: letters@globeandmail.ca
Website: http://www.globeandmail.ca/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/168
Author: Robert Matas
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmjcn.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)