Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2007
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2007, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Dean Beeby, Canadian Press
Cited: Canadians for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


OTTAWA -- The federal government charges patients 15 times more for 
certified medical marijuana than it pays to buy the weed in bulk from 
its official supplier, newly released documents show.

Critics say it's unconscionable to charge that high a markup to some 
of the country's sickest citizens, who have little income and are 
often cut off from their medical marijuana supply when they can't pay 
their government dope bills.

Records obtained under the Access to Information Act show that Health 
Canada pays $328.75 for each kilogram of bulk medical marijuana 
produced by Prairie Plant Systems Inc.

The company currently has a $10.3-million contract with Health 
Canada, which expires at the end of September, to grow standardized 
medical marijuana in an abandoned mine shaft in Flin Flon, Man.

Health Canada, in turn, sells the marijuana to a small group of 
authorized users for $150, plus GST, for each 30-gram bag of 
ground-up flowering tops, with a strength of up to 14 per cent THC, 
the main active ingredient.

That works out to $5,000 for each kilogram, or a markup of more than 
1,500 per cent.

"It's impossible for a person on disability," said Ron Lawrence, 38, 
a burn victim in Windsor, Ont., who needs medical marijuana to 
control severe pain. "The sickest people are the ones that need it 
the most . . . they're the ones who don't work."

Adds Scott McCluskey, 48, in Westbank, B.C., who suffers spinal-cord 
pain that is eased by marijuana: "They're selling it for criminal 
street prices. . . . I don't think anybody, especially seriously ill 
people . . . should have to pay this type of money for medicine."

Currently, 1,742 patients are authorized by Health Canada to possess 
dried marijuana as a medication. Of these, 1,040 are licensed to grow 
their own, and another 167 people are licensed to grow marijuana for 
the exclusive use of licensed patients.

But patients can also order marijuana through Health Canada's 
official supplier, Prairie Plant Systems, which typically delivers 
the product by courier.

"At a time when medical cannabis users all too often have to choose 
between buying groceries and their medicine, it is unconscionable 
that Health Canada . . . should be marking up this product 1,500 per 
cent," said Philippe Lucas of Victoria-based Canadians for Safe 
Access, which promotes ready access to medical marijuana.

A spokesman for the department, Jason Bouzanis, said the quoted price 
of $328.75 a kilogram for bulk marijuana does not include other 
Health Canada costs.

"The price for individuals authorized to possess marijuana for 
medical purposes is based on the actual cost of production and an 
estimate of costs associated with the distribution of the product," 
he said. "These costs are subject to change."

Street prices for marijuana are about $10 a gram for small quantities 
- -- or about twice Health Canada's price -- though bulk street 
purchases with few middlemen can match or better the government 
price. Compassion clubs charge as low as $5 a gram, the same price as 
government dope.

Because medical marijuana is not a recognized drug, with its own drug 
identification number, insurance companies and government drug 
programs do not reimburse patients for costs, as they do for other 
pain medication.

Many patients say they are unhappy with the quality of the Prairie 
Plant System product. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake