The Canadian cannabis industry finds itself deep within a culture-shift, a time where clinical studies have proven the plant’s medicinal benefits, rising above heavy beliefs of the past. As the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) are in place, medicinal users can either take the home-grow route, designate another individual to grow for them, or purchase their cannabis from a licensed producer. All scenarios from growing to purchasing have prompted discussions regarding pesticide use and the dangers of bacteria and mould. For patients who are unable to find a cannabis-informed physician, some compassion clubs and storefronts have been accepting patients without any medical documentation. Although these locations may be considered a source of support for those in need of relief, they are unlicensed and unregulated leading to the sale of cannabis products that are obtained from unknown sources – which likely use pesticides and other chemicals in the grow process. Shops showing interest in having their cannabis lab-assessed are finding it difficult to do so since they were not included in Health Canada’s new safety-testing rules that allow legal home-growers to lab test their product.
By providing controlled-environments in high-tech regulated facilities, stringent grow guidelines are the norm with licensed producers. Mettrum Ltd., an industry leader in the growing list of producers, is now stationed at the forefront of regulatory change. Stepping forward with fellow LP’s as regulations are deliberated towards the Canadian recreational market, Mettrum already has the wheels in motion. Construction underway aims to double total production capacity from the current amount of approximately 6,000kg of product per year, to 12,000 kg per year by March 31, 2017, 25,000 kg by March 31, 2018, and (phew) it doesn’t end there – the goal by 2019 is to have production capacity of 50,000 kg per year.
In a second visit to Mettrum (you may recall the first visit), production has visibly grown while Canadian patients have become doubly aware of the quality of their medicine. I’ve observed that online FAQ pages for these producers are increasingly including more information about the quality of the products including queries about irradiation, chemicals, etc. Being direct and clear about what is being provided is the way things should be as Mettrum’s website describes their product being “whole bud non-irradiated medical marijuana”. For those curious whether to take the plunge with an LP, Health Canada regulated producers provide the safest known product that one can obtain, compared to what unregulated sources have been providing to date. Until lab testing is available to anyone who wants to grow cannabis, the techniques utilized with LP’s state-of-the-art technology is far superior to independent grows in terms of maximizing harvest, medicinal property levels, and the avoidance of harmful chemicals and bacteria. Plants are grown in computerized pods that provide calculated irrigation and nutrients to ensure the most consistent product. Afterwards, harvested product must be lab tested prior to sale, in order to meet or exceed international pharmacopeial guidelines for microbial and chemical contaminants.
I had the opportunity to discuss plant health and genetics with the facility’s Plant Scientist while touring each grow. The first was loaded with “Super Lemon Haze”, a favourite strain of sativa-lovers for its ability to elevate energy for those with fatigue issues, and balance symptoms of depression. Once the door was opened to the grow of pre-harvest SLH, a pungent sweet lemony scent poured out and engulfed us. As a more tropical type of cannabis plant, sativas are the “stretchers”; moving outwards as they grow in comparison to their indica counterparts that keep things lower to the ground. The mixtures of these cannabis types have created limitless varieties of strains that cater to a multitude of symptoms. One such hybrid strain, “Tahoe OG” was housed in the next grow. A go-to for patients looking for relaxation, and relief from pain and stress. With the scent of aromatic fresh pine, this photogenic strain is perfect for insomnia (and likely to get you in the mood for a huge midnight snack). Another such hybrid strain toured is known as “Great White Shark”, and with its fruity sweet scent in comparison, it similarly aids with stress, including chronic pain and muscle spasms, while widely used by patients with multiple sclerosis. Blanketed with sparkling trichomes and burnt orange, this strain has been celebrated for winning the 1997 High Times Cannabis Cup for Best Hybrid.
There is something very therapeutic about being in a room full of happy and healthy cannabis plants. I enjoyed some time soaking in green vibes while discussing botany with Mettrum’s Plant Scientist, and was glad to hear that natural tried-and-true methods are used to maximize the amount harvest per year. By manually redirecting plant energy, the plants are able to concentrate on more favourable areas during their growth cycle such as a stronger plant body or larger buds. Mettrum’s President George Scorsis also explained that while carefully tending to the efficiency and quality of these plants, the company aims to maintain continual turnover to ensure fresh product. Affirming that there really is no need to grow 6-foot-tall trees, since doing so lacks consistency and uniformity (in THC and CBD yields). Scorsis explained that “For [Mettrum], it’s about having a highly standardized product – we don’t use pesticides – we want quality product. Consistency is the key.” Unlike low-funded growers and unknown sources that produce cannabis the cheapest possible way, Mettrum’s mission of “consistent, good quality product” is music to the ears of cannabis connoisseurs. Most consumers are only beginning to question how trustworthy their purchase sources are, since even until recently accessibility has been the main issue for most patients. Focus on the sentiment of quality will continue to escalate into priority status as it rings through the Canadian cannabis community in approach of legalization, but until then, as we say in the law, “let the buyer beware”.