THE WEED RE­PORT

Ju­lian Fantino sings the praises of med­i­cal mar­i­juana

24 Hours Toronto - - NEWS - JOE WARMINGTON

One was the chief of po­lice for Toronto, Lon­don, York Re­gion and the OPP.

The other spent 34 years putting away bad guys as a mem­ber of the RCMP, re­tir­ing as deputy com­mis­sioner of Fed­eral and In­ter­na­tional Polic­ing.

In the past, if for­mer po­lice chief Ju­lian Fantino or one­time RCMP of­fi­cer Raf Souc­car were talk­ing to you about cannabis, it would be time to quickly head for the door or maybe even call a lawyer.

Not any­more.

Fantino and Souc­car now fight for the ben­e­fits of mar­i­juana: The le­gal kind that is. The kind used for med­i­cal pur­poses.

“I have be­come a con­vert,” said Fantino Tues­day. “It started to hap­pen when I was the (fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net) min­is­ter work­ing with veter­ans and I saw first hand how they were helped.”

Added Souc­car: “In my case, (it was) when I was work­ing on the task force for the prime min­is­ter and I got an ed­u­ca­tion on the ben­e­fits.”

And, start­ing now, they are among the prin­ci­ples open­ing the Aleafia To­tal Health Net­work flag­ship clinic in Vaughan that uti­lizes cannabis to help peo­ple.

“It’s a holis­tic ap­proach,” said Fantino. “It’s mak­ing peo­ple bet­ter.”

As both de­fence min­is­ter and veter­ans af­fairs min­is­ter, as well as be­ing a chief of po­lice for four ser­vices, Fantino saw the agony mil­i­tary per­son­nel went through dur­ing or after their de­ploy­ments.

“For some, it’s hor­ri­ble,” said Fantino. “There is sleep de­pri­va­tion and peo­ple in so much pain.”

Souc­car said the story of a young boy with epilepsy go­ing from more than 100 seizures a day to some­times go­ing for two weeks with­out one, con­vinced him.

For many in need of med­i­cal re­lief, opi­ate prod­ucts, pre­scribed or oth­er­wise, seemed to be the drug of choice, even though the ad­dic­tive painkillers have ru­ined lives.

“Le­gal cannabis in many cases can re­place opi­oids,” in­sisted Souc­car.

“We want to help peo­ple get off of opi­oids,” added Fantino.

But at Aleafia, the idea is to not rely on any one medicine or ap­proach. Med­i­cal cannabis is part of it — through tra­di­tional means or through pills or oils.

“But cannabis will only be au­tho­rized for use by our pa­tients who are in need of that help. We will be of­fer­ing chi­ro­prac­tic help here and mas­sage, as well as other med­i­cal ap­proaches,” said Souc­car.

“The goal is to get peo­ple bet­ter,” says Fantino, who adds that it’s up to the gov­ern­ment to de­cide whether or not medic­i­nal weed should be taxed, which is what the Lib­er­als are propos­ing de­spite say­ing the op­po­site ear­lier.

It seems like a no­ble pur­suit for both as well as their other part­ners on this unique pro­ject. But it has not come with­out its crit­i­cism or snick­ers. Some on so­cial me­dia have used the word “hypocrisy” to de­scribe these two cops go­ing down the road of cannabis, which next year will be­come le­gal for recre­ational use in Canada.

Of course, it’s un­fair.

But even I ques­tioned them about it given they have both been strongly op­posed to the il­le­gal use of mar­i­juana. When he was a politi­cian, Fantino was also crit­i­cal of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s push to le­gal­ize the prod­uct.

Both are pretty used to hear­ing from the crit­ics.

When you look at Aleafia closely, it does not in any way seem to be re­lated to next year’s pot plans.

“It isn’t,” said Souc­car. “Med­i­cal cannabis ther­apy has been le­gal in Canada for 20 years and even if the le­gal­iza­tion plans were to be changed, it would not change what we are do­ing at Aleafia.”

That said, both are aware of the “stigma” sur­round­ing the drug and “through ed­u­ca­tion” are help­ing to bring about the same change in think­ing that hap­pened to them.

Fantino does not have to apol­o­gize for want­ing to help peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing. Nor does Souc­car.

They should be given a pat on the back.

ERNEST DOROSZUK/POSTMEDIA NET­WORK

Raf Souc­car, left, and Ju­lian Fantino pose at the launch of the Aleafia clinic in Vaughan on Tues­day.

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