Ashley Harnden and her husband, Shawn Harnden, have gone through all the ups and downs growing their own medical cannabis.
Now, the P.E.I. couple is passing on expertise to help Islanders with the process of growing their own medical cannabis at home – from getting a licence to buying the seeds to a finished plant.
"We're Islanders. We're cannabis enthusiasts. We're medical cannabis users because of some health struggles that we've had along the way. And, we're long-term growers with 30-plus years experience," said Ashley, who owns and opened GreenIsland Cannabis Solutions on Water Street in Charlottetown to offer consultation and mentorship in a variety of cannabis-growing services.
These services include setting up an online medical appointment with a nurse practitioner to access medical cannabis, connecting licenced growers with the right seed producer and filling out the 11-page application with Health Canada to grow more than four plants of medical cannabis at home.
The business also orders the equipment needed for home growing, such as a tent to create an indoor greenhouse, a light, a fan, a carbon filter, soil and cloned plants or seeds. They also mentor clients during the growing process and connect clients with electricians and contractors to help with installation.
People can’t be going broke trying to get their medicine.
On average, it takes about three months for the seed to grow into a finished plant.
“If you can grow house plants at home, you can grow cannabis plants at home,” said Ashley.
"It's more convenient if you do it at home and it becomes a hobby - garden therapy."
Both Ashley and Shawn have had their own experiences with serious medical issues and the need for pain management.
In 2014, Shawn was a heavy equipment operator in Calgary when one day he sustained a workplace injury when a trench collapsed on him. He suffered severe nerve damage in his leg, and the aftermath has left him with chronic pain. A year later, Ashley underwent cancer treatment.
“You can go from the top of the world to nothing,” said Shawn.
When they moved back to P.E.I. in 2017, Ashley already had her licence to grow medical cannabis renewed. But Shawn ran into issues trying to have his licence renewed at a P.E.I. clinic.
"We had a bit of a time navagating the system ourselves. The regulations are different from province to province getting your licence and renewing it and keeping it," she said.
He was allowed to purchase and consume medical cannabis but not permitted to grow it. Growing provides a lower cost option for chronic pain suffers while others in this situation are tempted to buy cannabis illegally in order to avoid the high prices of legal cannabis, he said. That experience motivated the couple to eventually start GreenIsland Cannabis Solutions – to help others navagate the system and grow their own medical cannabis.
“My prescription is for a pretty high amount, and to be able to afford that would not be possible for me,” he said. “It’s definitely something that you should have the option for, so them taking that option away from me was really not right … People can’t be going broke trying to get their medicine.”
Other services include using a device to test the composition of a cannabis sample, cooking classes and yoga classes after consuming cannabis.
With the Sunday morning yoga classes, Ashley said it gives participants an opportunity to “melt into your mat for an hour or so”.