Kootenay-Columbia residents face challenges over marijuana legalization

After marijuana was legalized in 2018, all the hype went away in a puff of smoke, and people carried on with their lives as usual, with the exception that they can now legally purchase a substance many of them already used.

As legalization approached, many dispensaries closed down to make way for legal shops, leaving some people without products used for medication like CBD oils and creams, said MP Wayne Stetski. Since then, he has worked to become an advocate for those who have gone without their medications since legalization of recreational marijuana.

“Most recently, now that is has been legalized, I’m getting all of these senior citizens coming to me, concerned about the fact that they no longer have access to the creams and the oils,” he said, adding that he was surprised by the demographic. “Cannabis has two sides to it. There’s the THC side, which will get you stoned, and there’s the CBD side, which is pain control.”

There are two dispensaries operating legally around Kimberley, which offer up a wide range of smokable products. The Federal Government is working toward regulating edibles, which Stetski says could take another year. Right now, anyone looking for products high in CBD has to pay attention to labelling on recreational cannabis products, or receive recommendations from dispensary staff. Many people are going without proper CBD treatments, because they are unavailable, Stetski said.

“The line that I think is really quite accurate, one of them said the Liberal Government, under the legalizing recreational use of marijuana, has made it easy for me to get stoned, but a lot harder for me to get healthy,” Stetski said. “I’m amazed by how many seniors are bringing it up.”

Stetski was able to speak with employees at both of the dispensaries in Kimberley about how they deal with medical marijuana users, and what the options are for people seeking medical marijuana. He asked both locations what a senior could do if they went in today in search of something for painful arthritis, and was told there were no high CBD options available, and that people who run dispensaries can face jail time for providing products that haven’t been legally regulated yet.

“I’m having to tell seniors that I’ve worked with for a long time that I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” one of the employees said to Stetski.

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, a number of issues have surfaced. Another surprise to Stetski was the concern over wasteful packaging. Even a small amount of marijuana purchased is delivered in large plastic cannisters with child-proof lids.

“It used to be if you wanted an ounce, they handed it to you in a little plastic bag. Now, it’s tucked away in a metal can,” Stetski said. “These people are saying to me, ‘this is environmentally unfriendly, all this waste.’”

One dispensary in Kimberley has put out a recycling bin, asking customers to bring back the packaging to be properly recycled.

Over the past while, Stetski has become an advocate on behalf of marijuana growers in the West Kootenay region. The Federal Government has been limiting growing operations to indoor locations, but Stetski says growing outdoors can be more environmentally friendly, harnessing the energy of the sun and the rain, reducing the use of lights and water needed.

“You use the sun and the rain, rather than pouring electricity into it,” he said.

A cooperative was formed in the West Kootenays, the Kootenay Outdoor Growers Coop, and they are trying to become a part of the legal future, he said.

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