Pubdate: Thu, 28 Aug 2003
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily News.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Jari Dvorak scored 60 grams of pot and lit up, but - unlike in the past - 
the deal involved no back alley exchange or hiding from police.

This time, the 62-year-old Dvorak went to a doctor to pick up his supply, 
making him one of the first patients to receive government-grown marijuana. 
He paid $345 Canadian (R1 813), tax included.

"I just smoked some and it's doing the trick," the HIV-positive Dvorak 
said. He is one of several hundred Canadians authorised to use medical 
marijuana for pain, nausea and other symptoms of catastrophic or chronic 

The programme announced last month by the federal health department 
provides marijuana grown by the government in a former copper mine turned 
underground greenhouse in northern Manitoba.

Dvorak described his new stash as light green and orange in colour, 
resembling ground tobacco sealed in vacuum-packed bags. If he saw some 
lying around, he said, "I would say that's marijuana, especially if I sniff 

Getting it has been a three-year struggle for Dvorak and other Canadian 
patients who have battled through the courts to make the government respond 
to what they call their need for a compassionate exemption from criminal law.

Marijuana possession remains a crime in Canada, though the government has 
proposed making small amounts - less than 15 grams - punishable by a 
citation and fine similar to a traffic ticket. Officials in the 
neighbouring United States have warned of tighter border security if Canada 
takes that step.

Last month, Health Minister Anne McLellan announced the programme to sell 
the government-grown marijuana, satisfying an Ontario court order for the 
government to make a legal supply available to authorised patients.

The court ruling said current laws made "seriously ill, vulnerable people 
deal with the criminal underworld to get medicine".

Under the programme, qualified patients can get 30 grams of dried pot for 
C$150 (about R770), well below street prices. Authorised growers can buy 
packs of 30 seeds once a year for C$20 (R111).

Dvorak's supply came with something he had never seen - a content analysis. 
He noted the THC content was 10.2%, compared to the range of 3% to 18% in 
most street marijuana. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive 
chemical in marijuana.

He smokes marijuana in the morning to soothe nausea from the HIV drugs he 
has taken for 15 years.

"I'm so happy the government is coming through with it,"

Dvorak said. "Are they going to carry on with it? We'll see." McLellan has 
called the initial programme an interim measure to satisfy the court order 
while the government appeals the ruling.

Canada unveiled plans for medical marijuana in 2000 and began growing a 
supply in the abandoned mine shaft in Flin Flon, Manitoba. New regulations 
took effect on July 30, 2001, expanding the number of Canadians allowed to 
use medical marijuana and allowing people to grow their own or designate 
someone to grow it for them.

The regulations also cleared the way for distribution of the 
government-grown pot, but McLellan's department later announced it needed 
further tests on the effects of medicinal marijuana and its quality before 
making any available.

That brought last year's court ruling ordering the government to offer a 
legal supply instead of making patients buy off the street.

Medical marijuana users complain the Canadian system has been a 
bureaucratic maze intended to stifle the issue instead of providing pot to 
those who need it to ease their symptoms.
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