Former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt has never used medical marijuana to alleviate pain, not even after falling six metres from the deck of his Pender Island cottage 12 years ago and suffering a serious spinal-cord injury.
But he’s a big advocate and announced Tuesday he has become chairman of True Leaf Medicine Inc., an aspiring public company that hopes to grow and distribute medical marijuana from a facility in Lumby.
“Medical cannabis is a very important 5,000-year-old plant that can really help people who suffer with various afflictions and pain,” he told The Sun.
“From my own experience with a spinal-cord injury, I have seen an awful lot of people with terrible arthritis, Crohn’s disease, spinal-cord issues and other ailments who I think could really benefit from medical cannabis.”
True Leaf has applied for a Canadian Securities Exchange listing and hopes to be trading within four to six weeks.
The federal agency is currently reviewing more than 500 applications in the gold-rush frenzy that has gripped the burgeoning medical-marijuana sector.
Several B.C. junior mining companies have considered moving into the medical-marijuana business to diversify their operations and Olympic gold medallist Ross Rebagliati hopes to open a medical-marijuana franchise business in the future.
Harcourt expects 10 to 20 companies will eventually become leaders in the field, including True Leaf.
“It’s like most gold rushes — there are only so many nuggets in the river and things will get sifted out,” he said, insisting True Leaf isn’t in the business to “pump and dump” stock. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
Harcourt said there’s a big difference between using recreational marijuana to get high and using medical cannabis to alleviate pain or other serious medical conditions.
The 71-year-old former politician said he used marijuana for recreational purposes in the 1960s but hasn’t used it since. He said he never considered using marijuana after his serious 2002 accident because the condition that affects his body is more of a numbing sensation than pain.
“I use maybe two or three Tylenols a year and I drink wine occasionally,” Harcourt said. “Except for heart medication, I don’t really use medicines.”
He said True Leaf will establish a panel of medical and scientific experts to help the company become a leader in setting industry standards, which don’t really exist now.
“It’s important that we set science-based research in collaboration with doctors, who now have to evaluate and prescribe medical cannabis,” Harcourt said. “What do they prescribe? What strain for what ailments? What dosage?”
True Leaf chief executive officer Darcy Bomford, with a pet food industry background, said the company has an option to lease a 16,000-square-foot building in Lumby if Health Canada approves its application.
The firm hopes to raise up to $3 million in private and public financing and expects to initially hire at least 10 full-time employees if it gets the nod from Health Canada. It currently has about eight employees under contract.
Harcourt expects marijuana for recreational use will eventually become legal in Canada and feels that will be a good thing.
“Prohibiting booze created Al Capone,” he said. “Prohibiting marijuana created a huge revenue source for the Hells Angels and other gangs.”