Pubdate: Sat, 24 Aug 2002
Source: Halifax Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2002 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Nancy Carr, The Canadian Press


Smokers Criticize Delay In Releasing Government-Grown Cannabis

Toronto - Medicinal marijuana users lit up on a downtown street Friday to 
protest a delay in releasing government-grown cannabis to sick people and a 
recent police raid on a Toronto cannabis supply centre.

"Now I have to go to the street to find (marijuana)," said Paul Phillips, 
43, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in Sept. 2001.

"It's not as good on the street and it's maybe twice as much money."

Phillips, whose cancer has spread to his brain and bones, said a doctor 
originally suggested he start smoking marijuana to offset the effects of 
his medications.

"The marijuana helps me to eat. It gives me an appetite and it helps me 
sleep at night so I can stay alive."

Phillips and his wife drove 100 kilometres to Toronto from Beaverton, Ont., 
to join about 100 other marijuana users smoking their natural medicine on a 
busy street in front of Justice Department offices.

He credits medicinal marijuana - obtained from the Toronto Compassion 
Centre with a doctor's prescription - with bringing his weight back up to 
150 pounds from less than 100.

Established in 1997 by a Toronto criminal lawyer and law professor, the 
Toronto Compassion Centre was providing marijuana to 1,200 sick people 
before it was raided last week.

"We operated for four years with impunity. The police knew about (the 
centre) and for reasons that will never be completely understood by me they 
raided them last week and put them out of business," said lawyer Alan Young.

Young and three others associated with the centre were arrested Aug. 13 and 
charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and possession for the 
purpose of trafficking over a three-month period.

Marijuana was also confiscated from the office.

The raid effectively shut down the centre.

To add to the frustration of medicinal marijuana users, Federal Health 
Minister Anne McLellan told the Canadian Medical Association this week she 
won't release any of the marijuana being grown for the government to 
distribute to sick and dying patients until it has been tested in clinical 

The stipulation suggests that the government marijuana, being grown in an 
old mine in Flin Flon, Man., won't be made available to severely sick or 
dying patients for years, if ever.

"Either the government has to provide the medicine or they have to allow 
the clubs to flourish," Young said.

Although possessing marijuana is illegal in Canada, several police officers 
stood by and watched the protesters smoke their drugs on the street Friday. 
No charges were laid.

"We're here to keep the peace, and they're being peaceful," said Sgt. Mark 

"As far as them doing anything wrong, that would have to be determined by 
further criminal investigation and that's not warranted at this time 
because they are being peaceful."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager