When the Grass is Greener


Using cannabis oil has helped Jamie Gilkison with chom-induced nausea. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in December last year and used the 99 North dispensary to buy the oil. Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 10, 2015

Just a few days before the New Year in December, Jamie Gilkison noticed a small bump in his neck. By afternoon that day, it was about as big as a pear. Gilkison and his wife Josie Kortchevich rushed to the Squamish General Hospital where doctors referred him to the Lions Gate hospital. After various scans and biopsies, the doctors revealed what they had found at the base of his tonsils: cancer. “His first comment was, ‘could they have got it wrong’,” says Josie. 
But after the initial shock wore off, Gilkison moved on to acceptance of the fact that he has cancer. A pragmatic and optimistic man, he has resolved to get healthy. What helps him in this resolve is the fact that his cancer is treatable.
He has had a few rounds of chemotherapy, but one of the side effects is nausea, which he knows will get worse as he goes on to have more rounds of chemotherapy.
Last week, after his chemotherapy, Gilkison couldn’t eat anything because of his nausea. By the next day, he was throwing up, again because of the chemo-induced nausea.
A few days more and they would have had to feed him intravenously, but then he recalled a few weeks ago someone had suggested trying marijuana for relief from nausea. Gilkison had read in the paper about 99 North dispensary and he went along with his wife to buy some products that could help alleviate his nausea.
They bought some cannabis oil which Gilkison used in a smoothie. It was only one teaspoon but the effect was magical, says Rosie. “He looked green and then he drank the smoothie and within minutes he seemed to literally brighten up,” she said. Gilkison says he was stunned to see how effectively and quickly the marijuana oil had worked. “It was amazing how quickly that queasy feeling was gone,” he says.

Since he found out RCMP has asked Bryan Raiser to close his dispensary, he has written to councillors and the local police chief to express his disappointment. He will now have to undergo the onerous task to find a trustworthy clinic in
Vancouver and drive down there to access it. Going there presents another challenge for him. After every chemo sessions, his immunity dips and he has been advised to stay away from crowded places. Accessing it from 99 North meant less travel and buying it from a well-known local they trusted. “It’s very unfortunate that it won’t be available locally,” Gilkison says.
People spoke to The Squamish Reporter after Bryan Raiser wrote a mass mail to his customers and asked them to come forward. Like Gilkison, others were also frustrated with the legally hazy area in which the marijuana trade operates. Randy Marchant is one of them. Marchant, was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2009. He also suffers from severe migraines that started when he was a teenager. He took painkillers for several years, but stopped after he realised they didn’t reduce his pain but rather added to it. He started taking marijuana as an alternative for pain killers and it has helped him sleep well. “I would smoke marijuana and it would relax me enough to make the pain go away,” he said. He prefers to buy it from Vancouver dispensaries as he doesn’t want to put himself into any legal troubles.
Marchant says he was happy to see a local dispensary open up because he doesn’t like driving on the highway. “The cars are too fast and the more you are on the highway, the higher your chances of an accident. I avoid it as much as possible.” He could access the marijuana from Health Canada but says it would be another bureaucratic hassle to fill out several forms to access it. He feels the dispensary was a benefit to patients like him and he urged the police to look at the benefits of having a local dispensary in town.

Tom Green has bought marijuana buds from Bryar Raiser’s dispensary. Green was diagnosed with amnesia and smoking a few tokes helps him get a good sleep. “It relaxes me, and helps me deal with stress and focus on the moment,” he said. Green has lost his father and two siblings to cancer and believes a strain of marijuana (THC) also helps prevent cancer. He prefers to buy it from a marijuana dispensary so he knows what he is buying and drives to Vancouver twice a month to buy it. He says he is disappointed to know the dispensary won’t be able to sell marijuana products anymore.
“Times have changed, and we really need to embrace it instead of fighting it,” Green says.
Tammy had an insomnia attack and deals with anxiety issues. She has bought two grams of marijuana from 99 North, which she says is discreet and professional, unlike dispensaries in Vancouver where there is weed everywhere. Tammy, who didn’t want to give her last name, said she doesn’t want to take prescription medicine as she fears it can have serious negative effects such as dementia. She stakes two to three puffs every night and it helps her get a good night sleep and keeps her calm and relaxed. “Bryan’s service is very professional, and I don’t see any issues with it,” she says.
Another patient, Meaghan Parker, says she had used Raiser’s dispensary once to get relief from chronic back pain from her herniated disc. She says she was supportive of the dispensary in Squamish because it was run by a local who was well-known to people.