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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gold Leaf

"Our slogan is, 'The Medical Grade Standard'. We built this operation to be a pharmaceutical-manufacturing plant."
"This was completely new to me. I never even smoked a cigarette before. I wondered if this was just a legal excuse to get high."
"In Canada we spend $30-billion a year on pharmaceuticals. Many cause side effects that require you to take six other drugs."
Neil Closner, chief executive, MEdReLeaf
MedReLeaf CEO Neil Closner was skeptical about joining the company until he spent a week with its Israeli partner.
Handout/Alexander Repetski     MedReLeaf CEO Neil Closner was skeptical about joining the company until he spent a week with its Israeli partner.

Up to last year, Canadian law required medical marijuana patients to be licensed by Health Canada as patients whose health condition found relief with the therapeutic use of marijuana. Those patients bought their marijuana from unlicensed grow-ops, or they themselves grew enough plants to service their needs. Medical marijuana users, licensed to make it legal for them to use weed therapeutically rose from 150 in 2001 to 35,000 by 2012.

Health Canada found it too bureaucratically onerous for licensing and taking into account the dangers inherent of unsupervised production, they opted for a change. To the present, any practising physician in Canada can now legally prescribe marijuana for a patient. Patients are now expected to purchase their marijuana from a government-approved commercial producer. This is a promising new enterprise; over 1,000 companies have applied to be licensed; as yet 21 have received certification.

Changed federal regulations responding to forecasts that within ten years' time almost a half-million Canadians will be using medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes, has resulted in a burgeoning industry on a real growth spurt. A new commercial grow-op which has been government-certified operates out of a Toronto suburb, once a farmer's field. It is called MedReLeaf; surrounded by global technology firms, its production staff trim plants by hand.

Founded just a year ago, the company has plans to ship its initial batch of finished marijuana in July, and by the end of the year projects that it will be serving ten thousand patients. And its chief executive feels confident the company he now guides will shortly have established another ten similar-sized facilities, serving one hundred thousand Canadians.

With its high-tech environment and security controls and registered nurses interviewing customers to understand the details of their health conditions and how best to serve their medical needs to obtain relief, it is an industry leader.

With an exclusive agreement for the distribution of products developed by Israel's leading medical-marijuana producer, Tikun Olam, in operation for seven years with innovative acclaim. Tikun Olam has developed new cultivars of marijuana designed for use in ameliorating various ailments. One strain contains high levels of CBD; the pain-relieving medical component of the plant, and very little THC, credited with creating a high. Another holds greater levels of THC, to reduce nausea in cancer patients.

Formerly an investment banker and software entrepreneur, Mr. Closner was invited to join the fledgling marijuana producing company by Toronto-based MENA Investment Network specializing in developing joint ventures based on Israeli technology. Skeptical at first about joining MedReLeaf, Mr. Closner spent a week in Israel interacting with staff and clients of Tikun before accepting this new position.

He was exposed to seniors and wounded veterans in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes able to live improved life-quality with the use of marijuana taken in cigarette, vapour or capsule form. One patient's excruciating pain had been treated with drugs that left him comatose for much of the time "One [cannabis] capsule a day gave him the clarity to feed himself and go to the bathroom by himself", explained Mr. Closner.

That exposure just incidentally persuaded Mr. Closner that medical marijuana had immense health value.

Tikun Olam is in the process of running twenty clinical trials in Israel. When the results of those trials are concluded MedReLeaf will share their findings. There are hopes that the documentation will assist doctors in understanding how to prescribe cannabis for best effective results in practise, and relieve doctors of some of the uncertainty many now feel when requested by a patient for an enabling prescription.

Up to now, pharmaceutical companies have created strains of medical drugs used to treat various illnesses, some with more success than others, all of which come with some level of side effects, some extremely serious. The iatrogenic effect of treating medical conditions with powerful drugs does often lead to health effects that urgently require other, ameliorating drugs, in the process leaving the patient's condition somewhat more complicated.

Drugs can be life-saving, and they can also be immensely life-complicating. Many pain-killers of the opioid variety are highly addictive, their effects ruinous to people's health and life expectancy. Cannabis, by contrast is a relatively mild stimulant drug, far more readily given to control. That it also has a markedly useful effect for people struggling with health conditions may give it a huge edge over conventional drugs.

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