Medicinal Marijuana: West Kelowna businessman embracing health benefits of cannabis

Neil Young is the co-owner of Starbuds Cannabis, a patient access centre that helps patients access medical marijuana

Starbuds Cannabis co-owner Neil Young says his business helps people get access to medicinal marijuana.

Starbuds Cannabis co-owner Neil Young says his business helps people get access to medicinal marijuana.

West Kelowna resident Neil Young loves to be immersed in the community and to help people.

A former hotel industry worker, Young, 29, has taken that love of people to a new initiative that is aimed at helping people who are facing a variety of health concerns.

However his new business is not your normal operation: Young is the co-owner of Starbuds Cannabis, a patient access centre—more commonly called a compassion club—where people can access medicinal marijuana out of a store-front on Main street in West Kelowna.

“We are a patient access centre and we help people get access to medical cannabis,” said Young as he sat down with the Capital News this week. “That is what we do. Patients that are legally allowed to have it are coming in with the proper forms to access medical cannabis. We can also set up an appointment with one of our medical consultants.”

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Starbuds—officially operating as a society—opened for business six months ago and in that time has had a steady stream of people through its doors. People sign up as members and have to present the proper paperwork from Health Canada and receive membership before entering a closed-door area and accessing medicinal marijuana.

There are many different forms of cannabis available, from flower or dried cannabis to cannabis oil, lotions and even bath fizz. And Young says the stories he hears back from the members are incredible.

“We had a guy come in and helped him get off opiates he had been taking for the past 10 years,” said Young. “We have people coming in with MS that try the bath fizz and say that’s the only thing that helps. We have a lot of people coming in with cancer, fybromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Those are the top three. More common is back pain, neck pain, insomnia, anxiety. The medicinal properties of the cannabinoids are incredible. It’s been really positive for us because the word is starting to get out that cannabis is helping people.”

Young admits his club operates in a grey area due to the nature of the medicine they are supplying people. While the federal Liberals announced this week their plans to legalize marijuana, the plant is still a controlled substance regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). When contacted Kelowna RCMP said “There are no legal mechanisms available which allow for self described medical marijuana dispensary or compassion club to function.”

Still there are at least four marijuana dispensaries operating in Kelowna and more compassion clubs that will likely open soon. RCMP head office in Vancouver said detachments set priorities in consultation with local governments and citizens of the community.

At Starbuds, Young says they have nothing to hide. He said the District of West Kelowna knows they are there operating and the only time RCMP responded to the operation was in response to an emergency button that was accidentally pushed at Starbuds.

“We’re not dealing marijuana,” said Young. “We are helping people get access to medical marijuana. You need a membership to get in. It’s a privilege, not a right to be here.”

While some compassion clubs operating in B.C. allow its members to smoke pot in the building, Young says they do not and are operating above board, acquiring medicinal marijuana through a Health Canada licensed grower. They work with a separate facility that makes edible marijuana out of an operation in Kelowna.

“It’s all government-regulated,” said Young, who added his company is franchising out its operation and is expected to open similar store-fronts around the Okanagan with plans in Osoyoos, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Kamloops and Kelowna. “We wouldn’t be doing what we are doing right now unless we were confident we were doing it right. There is no legislation right now saying what is right or wrong. We’re trying to set the standard. We want to share what we are doing with everyone else in the country. Our goal is to have Starbuds in every province across Canada.”

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