Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jul 2003
Source: Sentinel Review (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 Annex Publishing & Printing Inc.
Author: Dennis Bueckert, The Canadian Press
Note: The cited press conference, presented by Canadians for Safe Access , is currently on line as video files at
Bookmarks: (Alison Myrden)


No Permanent Regulations in Place

OTTAWA - Health Canada is getting into the business of selling
marijuana to the sick, even while police continue to bust people for
growing or dealing the drug illegally.

Under an interim policy announced Wednesday, the government will sell
bags of marijuana seeds and dried marijuana to sick patients who
qualify under Ottawa's medical pot program.

The announcement came on the day an Ontario court judge set as the
deadline for the federal government to come up with regulations for
distributing medical marijuana.

The judge ruled Ottawa couldn't logically give sick people permission
to use pot without also providing a legal source of supply.

Health Canada is appealing the ruling and Health Minister Anne
McLellan hinted the sales program could end quickly if her department
wins the appeal.

"It was never the intention for us to provide product," she said in

"What we wanted to do was in fact determine whether there is medicinal
benefit in relation to the use of marijuana."

She expressed strong skepticism about the premise of the medical
marijuana program instituted by her predecessor, Allan Rock.

"There have been no studies anywhere in the world that have been able
to confirm medicinal benefit," she said.

The tone of her comments differed from that used by Rock who said the
medical marijuana program was based on compassion for people who are
seriously ill or in discomfort.

Canadian Alliance health critic Rob Merrifield said McLellan has been
left out on a limb by Rock's initiative. He said marijuana should have
to go through the same scientific testing as any other drug.

About 500 people now qualify to use marijuana under the program, but
they have been required to grow their own pot, designate someone to
grow it for them or get it on the black market.

That was the problem that led the Ontario Court of Justice to declare
the law unconstitutional and give the government six months to fix

Health Canada is charging $20 for 20 seeds or $150 for a 30-gram bag
of dried grass. The product is grown by Prairie Plant Systems at a
mine in Flin Flon, Man.

To qualify under the medical access program, people must meet detailed
medical requirements and get the endorsement of a doctor. Many
would-be users haven't been able to qualify.

"What about the thousands of others?" asked Alison Myrden, a woman who
spoke from her wheel chair at a news conference Wednesday.

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chair of a Senate committee that called
for pot to be decriminalized, was highly critical of Wednesday's

"You can smell the bad faith of the government," said Nolin. "The
government doesn't do anything but react. Thank goodness for the courts."

Although Rock and McLellan have both stressed the importance of
research into the medicinal value of marijuana, no studies have yet
been completed and only one is under way. 
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