Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2007
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Toronto Star
Author: Dean Beeby, Canadian Press
Cited: Canadians for Safe Access
Cited: Vancouver Island Compassion Society
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


Critics Complain Sickest Users Forced to Pay 'Criminal' Price

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 sickest citizens, who have little income and are often cut off 
from their medical marijuana when they cannot pay their government dope bills.

Records obtained under the Access to Information Act show Health 
Canada pays $328.75 per kilogram of bulk medical marijuana produced 
by Prairie Plant Systems Inc. It has a $10.3-million contract with 
Health Canada that expires Sept. 30, to grow standardized medical 
marijuana in an abandoned mine shaft in Flin Flon, Man.

Health Canada, in turn, sells the pot to a small group of authorized 
users for $150 (plus GST) per 30-gram bag of ground-up flowering 
tops, with up to 14 per cent THC, the main active ingredient. That 
works out to $5,000 per kilo, 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 controls severe pain with medical 
marijuana. The sickest "are the ones that need it the most ... the 
ones who don't work."

Adds Scott McCluskey, 48, in Westbank, B.C., who needs it to counter 
spinal-cord pain: "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."

Health Canada has become a reluctant pot supplier, through a series 
of court decisions that accepted scientific research indicating 
cannabis can relieve pain when other medications fail. Currently, 
1,742 patients are authorized by Health Canada to possess dried 
marijuana as a medication; 514 of them order government-certified 
grass through Health Canada's official supplier, Prairie Plant 
Systems. Typically, it delivers the pot by courier. Currently, 149 
patients are officially in arrears totalling $143,611. Health Canada 
could not say how many have been cut off.

"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.

Health Canada spokesperson Jason Bouzanis said the $328.75 per kilo 
does not cover costs, related to distribution. Contract records show 
it pays the supplier a $9.06 fee per 30-gram package, for 

Vancouver Island Compassion Society will challenge the plan in 
British Columbia Supreme Court on May 9-18. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake