Vancouver pharmaceutical company applies for license to operate commercial medical pot facility in Osoyoos

By on December 4, 2013
Todd Zatwarniski (left), a security expert, and former RCMP drug enforcement officer Lou Helmes, made a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council Monday on behalf of the Vancouver-based company they work for called Canna-Pharma Inc. That company has applied to the town for a license to operate a commercial medical marijuana grow operation facility. (Keith Lacey photo)

Todd Zatwarniski (left), a security expert, and former RCMP drug enforcement officer Lou Helmes, made a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council Monday on behalf of the Vancouver-based company they work for called Canna-Pharma Inc. That company has applied to the town for a license to operate a commercial medical marijuana grow operation facility. (Keith Lacey photo)

A new Vancouver-based pharmaceutical company established earlier this year has formally applied to the Town of Osoyoos to build a large-scale commercial medical marijuana grow operation that would be “more secure than most banks.”

Todd Zatwarniski, a security expert with a Masters degree in Criminology, and Lou Helmes, who spent more than 25 years with the RCMP and much of that time serving as member of a covert unit attached to the National Security Section, made a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council Monday on behalf of Canna-Pharma Inc.

Canna-Pharma Inc. was established in early 2013 with the mandate to produce, distribute and conduct cutting-edge research in the field of medical marijuana, said Zatwarniski.

His company has officially applied to the Town of Osoyoos to open and operate a commercial medical marijuana grow operation (MMGO) and has been scouting sites in the town’s industrial park over the past several months, he said.

Company representatives wanted to appear before town council to answer questions and try and “eliminate some of the stigma” that is associated with medical marijuana operations, he said.

The reality is the current system, which allowed individuals to grow their own medical marijuana or have other individuals grow it for them wasn’t working and allowed for all sorts of abuse, including criminal elements, he said.

“Diversion into the black market has become very problematic,” he said.

Health Canada has made the decision to introduce a system where large-scale commercial producers are able to grow, produce and sell medical marijuana to customers approved by medical professionals is a much better system, he said.

One of the biggest reasons Canna-Pharma Inc. has applied for a license to open a facility in Osoyoos is because this community has an extremely low crime rate, he said.

“There’s a very low rate of officers to calls … it’s what we call a sleepy little community and that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

If town council eventually approves their application, any building selected for the MMGO would feature state-of-the-art security, said Zatwarniski, who also served in the Canadian military as a combat engineer and has worked in Ottawa as a special assistant to the Minister of National Defence.

There would be motion detectors, fencing, cameras inside and outside and “multiple layers of other security within the facility.

“It would be more secure than most banks, let’s put it that way.”

All employees hired would have to undergo stringent security clearance, he said.

The company’s business model forecasts annual revenues of $3 million to start with as part of a projected $1.3-billion industry in Canada in 2014, he said.

“The economic benefits will be immense,” he said.

Numerous scientific studies confirm medical marijuana provides health benefits to those suffering from HIV-AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, glaucoma, insomnia, sickle cell anemia and numerous other conditions, he said.

The proposed system would see company’s like his not only grow medical marijuana, but receive prescriptions from physicians and send the product to customers, he said.

“The doctor writes the prescription, it is sent to us and we send it to the user within 48 hours,” he said.

Helmes said Canna-Pharma’s board of directors is filled with experts in business, medicine and security.

“None of us are users … we don’t smoke the stuff,” he said. “We are a pharmaceutical company and we see it as an opportunity.”

The current system of producing and dispensing medical marijuana “is woefully inadequate” and the new system will provide much better controls, eliminate the criminal element and ensure municipal leaders know where and how these facilities are operating, said Helmes.

Mayor Stu Wells thanked both men for their presentation and said council will be discussing the application in great detail in the coming months before any final decision is made.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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