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A hereditary chief opens up about supplying his nation with free cannabis oil




Hereditary chief Wil Marsden has made a name for himself in his community as the guy you see if you need access to cannabis oil.

He’s been providing it, free of charge, to people in Gitanyow, B.C., for the past six years — stocking fridges with a supply of syringes filled with the dark, molasses-like oil, instructing people on how to medicate themselves for a whole range of illnesses.

It’s deeply personal work for the young​ leader whose father died from prostate cancer in 2011. The day he died in a North Vancouver hospital bed also happened to be day he received his first dose of a synthetic cannabis medication. Marsden said his father had been asking the doctors for access to medicinal marijuana for years.

« He was totally shot down… They probably assumed that he just wanted free weed, I guess, » said Marsden.  

« I just want to make sure that nobody goes through what I did, having my father totally denied. And as a hereditary chief I have a responsibility to lead our people. »

Today Marsden has a spreadsheet to keep track of those in the village and surrounding area to whom he supplies oil. He said over the years the list has grown to dozens of people who have used the cannabis compound to successfully treat a range of health issues.

The medicine works pretty good’

Rocky Robinson at his home in Gitanyow, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Sitting on the couch in his split-level home in Gitanyow, Rocky Robinson pulls out his tablet and starts scrolling through photos. 

« That’s when I was really sick, » he pulls up a photo of himself from a couple years ago where he’s much thinner.

« I was sick about three years and then I started using that marijuana — I don’t know what you call that oil. »

Robinson, a former firefighter, had been trying to get answers from doctors about why he was losing so much weight and was barely able to eat.

He’d been to the nearby hospitals, had CT scans and other tests but said the doctors weren’t able to come up with a clear diagnosis. At the same time he kept withering away — spending most of his time in bed. Eventually he got to the point where he needed help getting to and from the washroom.

At 70, Robinson said he isn’t in perfect health. But he said not long after starting to take the oil he gained back the weight he lost. He jokes about how the doctors now tell him he’s overweight.

He said he told his doctors about his use of cannabis oil, but they didn’t show much interest.

But other people in the tight-knit northern village took notice, watching their neighbour transform back into the man they knew, crediting cannabis oil for his recovery.

‘It’s done wonders for some people’

« I didn’t think Rocky was going to turn around, I thought it was over for him, » said Jacqueline Smith, who also uses the cannabis oil supplied by Marsden to treat her fibromyalgia.

« When you saw what he looked like and just how thin he was… he looked like he was less than 100 pounds. You see him today, he’s just happy and jolly and back to the same old person. It’s just amazing what it’s done for him. »

Robinson pulls up a photo on his tablet from when he was much thinner due to an unexplained illness. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Smith said she started using the oil after her fibromyalgia worsened to the point that she was in constant, debilitating pain that made previously simple tasks like getting up and down the stairs a long and arduous process.

She said within weeks of taking the oil the pain was subsiding and she was moving around more. Less than two months later, she was back to her regular routine pre-illness.

She said not everyone in Gitanyow is convinced that using cannabis as a medicine is a good idea, « but it’s done wonders for some people I know of and even myself. »  

Smith said she still has some pain, but it’s manageable enough that she’s been able to go back to work. She’s also been able to get off all the prescribed pain medication she was on.

« I’m really thankful for that because I know another lady who has [fibromyalgia] in Hazleton and she’s constantly in the hospital… she’s in so much pain. »

A doctor’s words of caution 

Gitanyow is one of countless places around the world where people are sourcing a cannabis compound known as the Rick Simpson oil to treat various illnesses.

Simpson, a former Canadian engineer, is famous on the cannabis scene for providing instructions to people on how to make the oil he claims cured his basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer.

Anecdotal success stories from people who’ve used this oil are abundant online. But while stories of success are hard to ignore, doctors say there’s a danger in taking these stories and applying them to your own health concerns, especially if you have a disease that could potentially end your life.

Preliminary studies have been published about the oil’s potential health effects, but scientists have said that there is not yet enough evidence to make sweeping claims about its health benefits. 

« We don’t exactly know how cannabidiol works in the body, » Robert Laprairie, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s college of pharmacy and nutrition, told CBC News in May. 

« I think we really just need more research and more studies in order to demonstrate whether cannabidiol is or isn’t effective as a treatment for different conditions. » 

Health Canada has also expressed concern over some of the therapeutic claims being made about cannabidiol.

Dr. Zeid Mohamedali is a urologist, medicinal cannabis researcher and consultant who also holds a PhD in cancer research from the University of British Columbia. He is a strong supporter of cannabis-based medicine but also wants people to use it with caution, and with the guidance of a physician.

Dr. Zeid Mohamedali is a Vancouver Island-based urologist and medical cannabis consultant. (Supplied)

« The problem with anecdotal, one-off evidence is there are so many different factors that control cancer evolution, » he said.

« You can’t be sure in a one-off situation that it is truly the cannabis that has made the change. It very well may be… but there’s no way for us to definitely say that it is the cannabis that has caused the change. »

Mohamedali said there are well-established therapeutic uses for cannabis, and some research to show potentially positive impacts in killing certain cancer cells but he worries about people taking preliminary research or anecdotes as a signal that they should opt out of proven treatments.  

« I have had patients who have suggested they would like to come off their chemotherapy and use cannabis and of course I totally disagree with that, because we don’t have the evidence to support cannabis as a single therapy for treatment of any of the cancers, » he said.

Mohamedali points to a breast cancer study as a prime example of why this could be dangerous.

He said that, in the lab study, a low dose cannabis compound was found to potentially kill breast cancer cells.

« That very same study showed that at a higher dose of CBD, those cancer cells grew faster. So the very same study, two different doses of the very same drug, gave very different responses, » he said.

When it comes to his own patients, Mohamedali said he’s seen hundreds of people have success using cannabis medicines for things like pain, sleep, anxiety and illnesses like fibromyalgia.

For people who are considering using the plant to self-medicate, he said to weigh the risk.

« If the risk is simply that you don’t get appropriate sleep, that’s not as harmful as if your cancer gets out of control or your seizures get to the point where you’re having severe seizures or some life-threatening outcome. »

Marsden said he understands why doctors are taking a cautious approach to medicinal cannabis, but he’s less concerned with the clinical studies and more invested in the individual successes he’s heard of and seen firsthand.

Following protocol

With recreational cannabis about to become legal, doctors like Mohamedali are concerned about diminishing the medicinal component of the plant.

Jacqueline Smith said she worries about the lack of education people have around it and how it might impact the mental health of young people in Gitanyow.

But when it comes to medicinal distribution, and the work Marsden has been doing, she’s fully supportive.

« We’re a small community and it works for us, » she said.

Marsden said cannabis shouldn’t be treated differently from the medicines people have harvested from their territory for generations.

Marsden holds up a syringe of cannabis oil. The oil is ingested orally using a toothpick held under the user’s tongue. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« We use quite a bit of traditional medicines. Elders and people in the village, we go out and get devil’s club and all of that, » said Marsden.

Devil’s club is a plant harvested for its medicinal properties by many Indigenous groups across Canada and the U.S.  

And like the harvest and distribution of local medicines, no money is exchanged when Marsden supplies people with cannabis oil.

« He doesn’t charge anything for it… because our belief is that it doesn’t work if you do that, » said Smith.

« It’s just like the plants we go out and get. We pick those and we give them to people. We’re always taught not to sell that. »

Asserting the nation’s rights and title, and Gitanyow Ayookxw (law), is something Marsden was raised to do. He’s fully embraced cannabis under his nation’s legal system and sees cultivating the plant and supplying people in the community with its medicines as an inherent right.

« It’s legal under our law… regardless of the provincial or federal laws, » he said.

« We live under our law. We live with our title to the land and it keeps us healthy. It’s a very comforting system that we have. Nobody’s ever left alone. »

Expansion plans for legal cannabis  

There’s a lot of interest in capturing the economic benefits from the legalized landscape across Canada and Gitanyow is no exception.

More than a dozen people sit around a boardroom table in the Gitanyow health office for a meeting about the nation’s green energy plan — a portfolio that includes food security, alternative energy and cannabis.  

Among those in attendance are Garry Reece and Simon Harvey of Nomis Holding, a Pemberton, B.C.-based company working to become a licensed cannabis producer under the Health Canada framework.  

Marsden is most interested in producing whole plant oil locally and educating people about the medicinal properties of the plant through his venture But he’s not opposed to selling it for recreational purposes — to him, there’s not much of a difference.

From left, Garry Reece, Wil Marsden and Simon Harvey pose for a photo after a meeting at the Gitanyow Health Centre regarding the proposed partnership with Nomis Holding Ltd. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

He’s in talks with Reece and Harvey from Nomis about partnering up.

Harvey, the company’s CEO, said the aim is to focus exclusively on supplying cannabis products to First Nations. There are also plans to offer modular dispensary services to communities.

Marsden’s long-term vision is ambitious. He wants to see greenhouses built in the community to grow cannabis and food — and to power the greenhouses through alternative energy sources.

But it’s still not clear how things will unfold with the proposed Nomis partnership or what kind of demand the dispensary will attract. Marsden said they’ll be ready to start processing online orders by about January.

People in the community are already growing a crop of plants.

« At the end of this year we’ll have a crop to produce; we’ll have a workshop and show people how to produce it and follow the Rick Simpson recipe, » said Marsden.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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