Pubdate: Fri, 10 May 2002
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2002 Southam Inc.
Author: Peter Shawn Taylor, National Post
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


CanCan can't. Cannabis Canada, a.k.a. Canada's fully regulated, approved, 
monitored and bonded medical marijuana program, has proven incapable of 
actually supplying a usable product.

The drug's a bust.

Last year former health minister Allan Rock unveiled a new policy to 
provide chronic pain sufferers and terminally ill patients with the right 
to legally smoke marijuana.

This was necessitated by an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that called on 
Ottawa to either change its rules for palliative marijuana use or watch the 
court strike down the nation's illicit drug laws as contrary to the 
Charter. In typical fashion, Ottawa responded with what it does best -- by 
creating a bewildering, centrally controlled and ultimately inefficient 
bureaucracy. The Office of Cannabis Medical Access was created. Application 
forms drawn up and doctor approval requirements set. In fact, the actual 
regulations have proven so complicated and onerous that Terry Parker, the 
man whose court case forced Ottawa to create the policy in the first place, 
has been unable to obtain a permit to possess his own pot. He was in court 
two months ago getting a unique personal exemption due to his inability to 
surmount Ottawa's red tape.

Then there was the actual growing facility.

A movie-set style impregnable fortress inside an abandoned copper mine in 
Flin Flon, Manitoba. There were rumours that the marijuana farm, run by a 
Saskatchewan company on a $5.7-million contract, had better security than 
the federal virus laboratory in Winnipeg. (You can just imagine the federal 
functionary reviewing his notes as the whole project comes to fruition. 
"New mind-numbing regulations? Check. Application forms and processing 
bureaucracy at the Office of Cannabis Medical Access? Check. Cool 
high-security laboratory? Check. Hey everybody, were in the medical 
marijuana business!")

The only thing they forgot was the product.

Rebuffed in their attempts to get standardized seeds from the Drug 
Enforcement Agency in the United States, the feds decided to cull what they 
could from police raids on grow houses around the country.

This meant a huge collection of different strains and of wildly varying 

The first crop, which was to have been distributed months ago, reportedly 
included 185 different varieties and was declared useless. "It's a problem, 
I'm not here to pretend," the new health minister, Anne McLellan, told 
reporters after delivering the bad news to the House of Commons health 
committee this week that the entire crop was too impure to hand out.

If the Health Department had bothered to troll downtown Vancouver, the back 
pages of High Times magazine or even a few high schools, they could 
probably have come up with better stuff than what the police provided.

Five minutes on the Internet provides numerous suppliers of Dutch Passion, 
Northern Light and Big Bud. Quality guaranteed. Some even offer free 
world-wide delivery -- right to your mineshaft.

But perhaps I'm being too hard on those Ottawa bureaucrats. For the only 
thing keeping the entire medical marijuana program afloat right now is the 
fact that someone had the foresight to allow private competition to the 
federal pot crop. As Ottawa struggles with its Flin Flon dope factory, 
medical marijuana users are allowed to grow their own. Of the 255 users 
licensed under the new regulations, 164 are permitted to smoke their own 
product. Those folk can now enjoy legal medical relief.

Anyone who chose to rely on Ottawa's entrepreneurial abilities will have to 
wait for the next crop.

No surprise that Ottawa has proven incapable of doing openly what thousands 
of individuals do secretly all the time in their own homes.

Regulating an activity to death doesn't improve the product or serve the 
customer better. In fact, it diverts attention away from what the consumer 
wants by distorting market signals and interposing technocrats into the 

And if the medical marijuana program can only be saved by a private, 
parallel system that is more efficient, costs nothing to taxpayers and is 
better attuned to customers' needs, then why not apply this lesson to the 
rest of the country's medical problems as well?

We could start by abolishing the fifth principle of Canada Health Act -- 
that only governments can fund essential health services.

Keith Martin, a Canadian Alliance MP and practising doctor, has long made 
the heterodox argument that a private health-care system entirely separate 
from medicare could solve most, if not all, of Canada's health-care issues.

Canadians who wish to buy private health insurance or pay for private 
treatment out of pocket would remove themselves from the public system.

Those still in the public system would get quicker treatment in a less 
crowded, though still inefficient, system.

The door would be open for treating foreign patients as a new and 
profitable business in Canada.

"We could enjoy the efficiencies of private enterprise, provide people with 
choice and competition and a greater array of health services," says Dr. 
Martin of his private health-care plan. "And anyone who can't afford 
private health-care would still get better access." Like the potheads 
always say, we should let Ottawa's marijuana experiment unclutter our minds 
and simplify our lives.
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MAP posted-by: Jackl