From Loon Lake Road – TNRD bylaw limits medical grow-ops

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column of community news, events and opinions from Loon Lake Road.

The countryside is quiet out here in December and one could be tempted to think that nothing is moving. Snow has been falling in small skiffs all month, leaving a fresh cloth each morning to check out who has been walking around my yard. It is fresh, yes, but not so clean and just slightly trampled.

One of the things I like to do with young children is to take them out first thing in the morning to look at the tracks in the fresh snow and to follow to see where the animal came from and where it went. First thing we do is try to identify what the animal was. We have great fun with the big and small deer tracks, cat tracks and dog prints. Sometimes the deer leave other calling cards as well which also are of interest to city children. Steller’s and Grey jays leave not only footprints but also wing prints in the snow, like beautiful relief sculptures.

Some things that might first be mistaken for tracks turn out to be little bits of snow and ice that have fallen off the limb of a big tree above – knocked off by some bird or the wind. Among the most remarkable tracks are the deep trails that the squirrels make from their favourite trees to the feeders and back again. They keep the ground bare along these paths. My favourite track is the pattern made in the snow by grouse – they walk a straight line and the prints suggest some kind of quilting stitch on the white snow.

One day recently we saw a beautiful fox carrying his breakfast off down to the creek bottom area. From where I was standing it looked like he was carrying a dead cat or a rabbit in his mouth. It is not often foxes are sighted here so it was a rare treat and also a warning to cat owners to keep their pets indoors.  I don’t know what a fox would do with a very small dog but I wouldn’t want to risk that either. Foxes are good hunters and predators. The sighting gave also an explanation for some cries I have heard down in the forested area over the past while.

On the TNRD front,  the regional government has passed a zoning bylaw amendment to prohibit licensed medical marijuana growers to grow medical marijuana on agricultural land smaller than 8 ha., whereas a facility for growing medical marijuana can be established on industrial land of 4 ha. (10 acres). If you have a 10 acre lot in the ALR you will be prohibited from growing this medicinal herb but if you have 10 acres in an industrial area you can grow it. They have done this very quietly, without making any real effort to inform the property owners who are affected by the zoning amendment. Growing herbs, last I looked, was an agricultural activity. Health Canada has established some very restrictive licensing regulations on medical marijuana growing operations to come into effect early next year and this will greatly reduce the likelihood of the product being redirected to the illegal drug market. The proposed TNRD by law is discriminatory and based on a very uninformed and outdated attitude toward the legal production of medicinal cannabis under controlled conditions.

Many people smirk and think of medical marijuana only as something one smokes to get a high, and that the whole issue of medical use is some kind of joke. Here’s the picture I see – a small baby is wracked with over 100 brain seizures every day and Canadians doctors can do nothing for her. She is limp and almost comatose all day and her future is dismal. The family moves to the US where she is treated by a medicinal extract of a specific variety of cannabis and the seizures pretty well stop – maximum of one a day. The baby is now bright, active, thriving and her future looks good. It only takes one baby like this to convince me. It is a shame that Canadian families have to move to the US to save their baby’s life.

There are forms of cannabis that do not give the high that druggies are looking for but do work well as medicine for brain seizures, epilepsy and other similar illnesses. In other countries, the medically effective compounds are extracted from the herb and then administered as medicine – even to babies.  No smoking, no high – just relief from seizures and pain. How very civilized; well too civilized for Canada and the TNRD, it appears. Canada has ignored, for the most, investigating these positive medicinal aspects of the herb and has relied on big expensive pharmaceutical drugs that are horribly addictive as alternatives to deal with illnesses and unbearable pain that are treated with cannabis extracts elsewhere – and in some cases there is nothing else available that works.

Looking to simple herbal remedies, grown locally, could be one way to reduce the spiralling cost of medical care that governments are always complaining about. It is time we took a serious look at growing all kinds of medicinal herbs here in the TNRD, and the regional district should be looking at ways to support farmers in growing herbs for medicine rather than prohibiting it. We all pay for a film commission based on the argument that it gives support to an important industry and adds to the economy of the region. Well, to the cities and towns in the TNRD anyway. One look at the map of film locations in the TNRD shows how the film commission fails to promote rural areas as possible locations. The map of locations follows Hwy 1 to Kamloops. Once again I point out that the TNRD’s mandate is to provide a first level of government in rural areas and not to take from the rural areas to subsidize activities in towns and cities.

There are currently many 10 acre lots of ALR land that are agriculturally unproductive and do not contribute in any to the local economy. An economically viable agricultural product that could be grown intensively on 10 acres should be seen as an opportunity for economic development rather than prohibiting it. It is clear that the TNRD administration does not have the best interests of the rural areas in mind. They have an uninformed, city slicker attitude and by laws, zoning amendments and resolutions affecting rural residents are based on what is convenient for the administration and city folk who dominate the voting structure. They claim that this zoning amendment is their way of clamping down on illegal grow-ops. How very naive.

For myself, I will say pass to growing medicinal cannabis as the licensing requirements involve a fairly large investment in structures and special equipment. I don’t have the expertise for the work involved. I have, however, become intrigued by the research into dandelion root tea as a treatment for cancer. I already have good experience with growing dandelions; in fact I am quite expert on growing them, I do it well and have a well established area in the yard where they are growing. As an additional benefit one can make wine from the flowers and use the young leaves in salad – what a perfect crop. It is highly likely that the big pharmaceutical companies already are lobbying in Ottawa to ensure that only they can produce dandelion root or to get a patent on dandelion. Now let us hope for the new year that someone finds a medicinal use for Centaurea biebersteinii, aka spotted knapweed, which will set the wild crafters busy harvesting that widely established herb for which the TNRD has no plans to limit where it can grow.

Ice is forming on Loon Lake now. With the continuing cold there should be skating and fun on the ice by the new year.

As the year races to an end, it is time to thank friends and neighbours for their thoughtfulness and friendship as well as conversations on issues that are raised in this column throughout the year. I also want to thank the readers of this column for their positive feedback and words of support.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Barbara Hendricks