Pubdate: Thu, 06 Dec 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Jered Stuffco, Canadian Press


Ottawa-Approved Grass Doesn't Ease Symptoms Like Street Drugs - Patients

TORONTO - Lawyers for Canadian users of medical marijuana who want
Ottawa to ease restrictions on where they get their drugs wrapped up
their case Wednesday by telling a Federal Court judge that
government-approved pot doesn't compare to higher-quality strains
available on the street.

Patients ought to be able to pick their own grower, said lawyer Alan
Young, who accused Ottawa of rushing into drafting a program in 2003
that ultimately forced patients to use a substandard product - a
violation of their constitutional rights.

"When the dust settles, what you're left with is a government simply
decreeing that this is the way you are going to get your medicine,"
Young said.

"Governments don't know how to grow marijuana and don't know much
about marijuana because for 80 years, they've been trying to convince
us that it's harmful."

But since launching its controversial medicinal marijuana program,
Health Canada has significantly improved the quality of its product
compared with earlier batches, meaning the case against the government
doesn't stand up, said Health Canada lawyer Christopher Leafloor.

The applicants in the case haven't tried the most recent batches of
cannabis grown by the contractor Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), which is
based in Flin Flon, Man., Leafloor said.

"Our position is that you can't really take seriously their claim that
the PPS product isn't good enough in terms of strength when they
haven't even tried it."

Leafloor said that only one applicant in the case had tried the PPS
product, and that trial was several years ago.

"That was an early version."

Leafloor also disagreed with the assertion that the government made an
eleventh-hour decision in December 2003 that restricts patients from
choosing their own growers.

"There's actually been a long history here," he said, noting the
government has been dealing with the issue and taking direction from
Canadian courts for more than seven years.

Leafloor also said the notion that some strains of pot were better for
treatment than others was based on user preference instead of
quantifiable data.

"It's not enough for patients to say, 'I prefer this so you have to
give it to me.'"

Wednesday's hearing marks the procedural culmination of a
three-and-a-half year process which Young hopes will eventually give
experienced cannabis growers the opportunity to supply products
specifically tailored to the needs of medical users.

Under the current Health Canada guidelines, users of so-called medical
marijuana can either grow their own pot, have someone grow it for them
or buy it from Health Canada. However, growers can only supply
marijuana to one patient at a time.
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