Medical cannabis user finds prescription unaffordable now that recreational weed is legal

If Shane Moore were to purchase his prescription from a Health Canada supplier, it would cost him $1,500 every month. He can't afford that.

Shane Moore's landlords won't let him grow his own, meaning he'd have to pay $1,500/month for his medicine

Shane Moore grows his own medicinal cannabis at home because he can't afford to buy it from a supplier. He may be evicted from his apartment because of his grow op. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Shane Moore was prescribed opiates for a back injury years ago. He got hooked.

It took years to shake the habit and even longer to feel relief without painkillers.

"Sometimes I hit the floor it was so bad," he said of his back pain, sitting in his Confederation neighbourhood apartment.

Moore discovered cannabis was effective as a pain reliever.

For Moore, cannabis is both a harm-reduction measure — it helped him kick opiates — and a medicine. He said it treats both his pain and his anxiety.

He was prescribed 3 grams of cannabis a day by his family doctor, with his psychiatrist's blessing.

Moore prefers to vape cannabis concentrate. To achieve his daily dose, he requires 5-10 grams of dried flower, which he gives to a friend to process into concentrate.

If he were to purchase the prescribed amount from a Health Canada supplier, it would cost him $1,500 every month.

But Moore is on income assistance. He can't afford that much for medicine.

Shane Moore's apartment building, located in the Confederation neighbourhood, is owned and run by Calgary-based Avenue Living. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

His solution is to grow his own. He has a licence from Health Canada and he has been transparent with his landlords for the last three years.

"When I signed my last lease I had shown [my landlord] my medical paper to show him I'm legal," said Moore.

When I signed my last lease I had shown [my landlord] my medical paper to show him I'm legal.- Shane Moore

Now his landlord wants him out.

New policy prohibits smoking, growing

On October 1, Avenue Living brought in a new policy prohibiting growing or smoking of cannabis — even medicinal cannabis — on its properties.

The move came just weeks before the October 17 legalization of medicinal marijuana.

Moore said Avenue Living, which owns the building he lives in, didn't have a policy prior to October 1 on growing medicinal marijuana with a Health Canada license. He did so freely.

"Our policy does not allow production or smoking of cannabis products on Avenue Living property. It is not a zero tolerance policy as it does not prohibit oral consumption," said director of marketing and communications, William Akoto, in an email.

The policy excludes edible cannabis products, but those are even more expensive than medicinal cannabis flower. Moore can't afford them, either.

He's received several written statements asking him to cease growing.

Shane Moore's weed once won an award, but he isn't allowed to sell it. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Moore's 8 plants are contained in two large black tents in his bedroom. He harvests them every 90 days and doesn't quite get the 5g/ day required to make his concentrate.

Walking up to his apartment, there is none of the skunky, pungent odour one associates with cannabis. Once you step inside, though, it's clear that Moore is a devoted grower and consumer.

When asked if Avenue Living has evicted anyone from any of their properties yet under the new policy, publicist Tiffany Burns answered simply "no."

But Moore is looking for other options

"It would cost between $12,000 and $15,000 for me to stop my production and start back up at a new location," he said.

That includes applying for a new license from Health Canada because of the change in location plus the cost of his medicine for the period during which he can't grow.

Then, there's the issue of where to use it.

"For me to be technically legally consuming without breaking rules or regulations in Saskatoon, I'd have to drive outside city limits or go to a friend's house," he said.

Saskatoon's new bylaw prohibits consumption of cannabis in public places — even medicinal cannabis.

To visit a friend every time he doses would be time consuming and unrealistic, he said.

Moore plans to find a private landlord who is sympathetic to his issues or buy a cheap house somewhere in rural Saskatchewan. He said it's the only way he can afford to live, grow, and take his medicine.

'Money is the biggest thing': advocate

Shane Moore, right, sits in his home as friend Sterling Wild, left, rolls a joint. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Since Moore went public with his issues with Avenue Living, he's received support from the cannabis community, including from friend and advocate Sterling Wild.

"It's very difficult for Shane to obtain his medication, even for growing," said Wild.

For me to be technically legally consuming without breaking rules or regulations in Saskatoon, I'd have to drive outside city limits or go to a friend's house.- Shane Moore

Moore and Wild estimate the cost to grow Moore's cannabis is about $2 to $4 per gram.

It's far more expensive to buy medicinal cannabis.

"He's looking at $9-plus per gram. We have now included the excise tax and all the taxes recreational users are paying," said Wild

In terms of access to medicinal cannabis, Wild says "money is the biggest thing." The drug is not covered under most health plans, or provincial drug plans.

To Moore and Wild, restrictions are piling up, leaving them with few cost-effective options to procure cannabis and to medicate.

Moore expects the issue to land in court sometime soon.

Until then, he's searching for pot-positive landlords.


Bridget Yard is the producer of CBC's Up North. She previously worked for CBC in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as a video journalist and later transitioned to feature storytelling and radio documentaries.


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