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Health official investigates BC drug treatment clinic founded by pot activist
SECHELT, B.C. - A drug treatment clinic founded by British Columbia's self-proclaimed "prince of pot" is under investigation by the local health authority.
The Iboga Therapy House charges $5,000 a day for five days of treatment with a "psychoactive plant alkaloid" derived from the root of the Iboga plant, native to West Africa.
Pot activist Marc Emery said he invested $250,000 to set up the treatment clinic about six years ago.
He said the drug, Ibogaine, stops drug cravings and withdrawal immediately.
"And it also gives these fantastic visions and sensations about their childhood and about the destructive path they're on," said Emery.
He said patients taking the drug "process these images in the days afterwards and they come, hopefully, to some profound conclusions about how to change their behaviour."
But Dr. Paul Martiquet, a medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health on the Sunshine Coast, said the clinic is not funded or licensed.
He said health inspectors would like to ensure the clinic meets appropriate standards - but they don't know where it's located.
"We don't know the location and they have not provided it to Vancouver Coastal Health," he said.
Martiquet said clinic program director, Sandra Karpetas, a former assistant to Emery, has assured officials the clinic is not operating right now and, if it were, it would only treat one patient at a time.
"So far, our information is it is not presently operating and if it were, it would only see one client at a time," Martiquet said.
Martiquet cautioned prospective patients to check out the treatment thoroughly before taking the substance.
Emery said he is no longer involved in the clinic but that he treated approximately 65 patients from 2002 to 2004.
He said he stopped his involvement four years ago "because I couldn't afford to pay for it all any more because, well, in fact, I started getting busted around that period of time so I didn't have the same amount of money to pour into it like I at one time did."
Emery maintains that Ibogaine is not illegal in Canada.
Rather, it is not a drug approved for therapeutic use by Health Canada, and therefore can't be administered by health professionals. The clinic has no doctors or nurses on staff.
"For ordinary people, Iboga is not illegal but for a doctor it's not approved yet, so they can't work with it.
That's why we don't have doctors or nurses working with us, because they're not authorized to do so," said Emery, who said he doesn't believe the scrutiny is related to his involvement.
Emery said he has not taken Ibogaine himself and has never seen anyone take it recreationally.
"It's too scary," he said.
He welcomed an inspection from the medical health officer.