|Jayne Ball doesn’t have much to be merry about these days. Neither does her husband Bert.|
“I don’t make any apologies for smoking marijuana,” Jayne said Saturday from her blue low-back chair, drawing in a slow, steady drag from a cigarette.
“I think it should be legalized,” said the 48-year-old grandmother of four.
“If I smoke pot, I can function.”
“I don’t believe the government should have a right to tell me what I can put in my body and what I can’t.”
A decade-long battle with two herniated discs and a spur-ridden vertebrae in her lower back and neck have left Jayne slightly hunched over.
The spurs are an endless catalyst for pain, Jayne said, as they pinch nerves and send waves of unease throughout her body.
“It’s like somebody is ripping my skin off,” she said wincing at the thought of it, holding the back of her neck with a cupped left hand.
“Even for my shirt to rub it hurts.”
She suffers from chronic arthritis, Hepatitis C and her constant discomfort has induced depression.
As she sits, her upper-body weight supported by her right elbow perched on the padded arm rest, she exhales smoke over her eight prescriptions.
May 12, Wells RCMP raided the Balls’ Crown Grant 5-F property near Wells.
They confiscated close to 300 marijuana plants, four grocery-style bags of dried herb, growing equipment and several firearms.
Charges of production and possession of a controlled substance are pending against the couple, as are firearms-related charges.
Police called it a sophisticated grow-op, an intricate system of timers, lights and rooms full of plants fed by a central supply.
It was getting ready for a significant expansion, according to RCMP.
After their story hit the media, the Balls came forward.
They want to clear the air and tackle their plight head on.
Bert was growing pot.
His operation was in full-swing for about two-and-a-half years.
In that time, he developed quite a passion for the pungent plants.
“I hate to say it, but they’re like little babies,” Bert said with a nostalgic grin.
“They’re just little special things that you work on. It’s not like tomato’s and it’s not the same feeling.
“They’re special, they’re medicine. You’re doing something good by growing them.”
Bert was harvesting his crops twice a year and only grew in winter months.
Before marijuana, the only things he ever planted were tomato’s and a garden for his ex-wife.
“I’ve studied and studied and studied,” he said.
“I could probably be a good grower of cannabis. I don’t know about anything else.”
He did have timers and lights and a central feed supply, an eight-gallon tank with a pump and a hose to feed each plant manually.
But Bert also had a government approved exemption, signed by RCMP.
As a designated grower, Bert had a license for 25 plants.
There was an exapansion in the works as well, as Bert was getting set to grow 35 more plants for another Lower Mainland man on a seperate exemption.
The Balls’ main problem lies in that while exempt for 60 plants, they were way over their legal limit, with nearly 300.
Bert had planned on putting eight seedlings in one-foot by two-foot trays, and was building up to 60 trays.
“This was the expansion they were talking about,” Bert said pointing to a roughly four-foot by four-foot storage space.
His grow-op was set up in what will become his master bedroom and a seperate room which will become his main bathroom, upstairs in their cozy family home.
He also had a tray in his office.
“I wanted to move this junk out so I could finish my bedroom,” the 65-year-old said, walking around trays full of dirt and planters with sawed off stocks.
While he had more than his alloted plant number, he was under their government sanctioned dried weight of 2.5 pounds by more than half.
And Bert only had 2,400 watts worth of lighting in his operation, and said his research indicated it would only yield 2.4 lbs worth of marijuana, no matter how big the plants got or how many there were.
“The general rule of thumb is one pound per every 1,000 watts of light you have,” he said.
“That’s all we got. I tried it with smaller plants and it was the same. So I thought we’d go with the smaller plants because you don’t have the pain in the neck and you don’t have to trim all those dinky ass buds.”
For five years, Jayne has tried to get a government exemption to smoke pot for its medicinal value.
Jayne’s perturbed she’s also facing charges, as she can hardly climb the stairs to where the grow was.
Although she has been unable to find a doctor to sign for her, Jayne has still smoked two or three joints a day.
It helps ease her pain, she said.
It helps her function and lowers her dependancy on morphine.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” she said, shuffling over in her chair to find a more comfortable position.
“If I take all their prescribed medication, I’d be sleeping all the time, I would be like a zombie.
“I’ve managed to drop my morphine from 180 miligrams to 60 mg a day, just by smoking pot.”
A lack of doctors willing to sign has been a tremendous source of frustration for Bert.
“Where, no matter how sick you are, do you find a doctor when the college of surgeons or whatever they call themselves in Canada have told doctors not to sign?” he asked.
“And where do you go when they say they don’t agree with it?”
It’s a problem B.C. Compassion Club Society, a medicinal marijuana patient advocacy group based inn Vancouver, said they hear a lot of.
“Health Canada’s program has only about 1,000 people with licenses in the country,” said BCCCS spokesperson Rielle Capler.
“There are various estimates, but a recent poll says there are about 1 million people in the country that use cannabis as medicine. By Health Canada’s own estimate, there’s at least 500,000 people in the country who use cannabis as a medicine. So if they have only been able to license 1,000 people, there’s obviously a problem.”