Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2006
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2006 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Steve Lambert, Canadian Press
Cited: Canadians for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


WINNIPEG -- People who want to grow pot for the federal government may
soon get the chance.

Health Canada's five-year, $5.75-million contract with its current
supplier of medicinal marijuana, Prairie Plant Systems, appears to be
winding down and the department is preparing to seek proposals from
all potential suppliers.

"Public Works and Government Services Canada continues to negotiate
with Prairie Plant Systems to ensure an uninterrupted supply of
marijuana for research and for authorized users while a (request for
proposal) process is carried out to identify a long-term supplier,"
said Health Canada spokeswoman Carole Saindon.

As it does for a wide range of contracts -- from building maintenance
to military supplies -- the government will invite interested
companies and individuals to submit bids for a pot-growing contract.
It will then try to choose the one offering top quality and value for

The process could result in Prairie Plant Systems being selected
again, or some other supplier could get the nod.

Some who use the current pot supply are urging the government to shop
around. "What we need to move beyond is the idea of a single monopoly
producer of medical cannabis," Philippe Lucas, a medicinal pot user
and spokesman for the group Canadians for Safe Access, said from
Victoria, B.C.

"The end users of this product -- Canada's critically and chronically
ill -- would benefit from having options."

People on medicinal marijuana respond better to different strains of
the drug, Lucas said, and want the right to choose from a selection.

About 280 patients currently receive the government pot, which Prairie
Plant Systems grows in an unused section of a hard-rock mine near Flin
Flon, Man. Most patients buy 30-gram bags of ground plant buds for

Many users returned the initial batches of the underground ganja,
saying it was too weak to relieve their symptoms and was also too dry.

Prairie Plant Systems made changes in 2004 to boost the levels of THC
- -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- and said return rates dropped
to less than two per cent.

Health Canada's contract with the company expired last December. It
was renewed until the end of June and has been extended until Sept.

It's not clear whether there will be further extensions or whether the
government will call for bids before the end of September. When the
federal government first sought marijuana suppliers in 2000, Prairie
Plant Systems beat out several bidders from British Columbia, Ontario
and other provinces. 
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