Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jun 2007
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Matt Mernagh
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


Activists Call on Auditor General to Investigate 1,500 Per Cent Markup
on Government Dope

The days of health canada marking up medical marijuana to the tune of
1,500 per cent may be nearing an end. Or are they?

Word from NDP health critic MP Libby Davies is that the office of
Auditor General Sheila Fraser is "in the early stages of an audit of
certain user fees" being charged medical pot users by Health Canada's
Medical Marihuana Access Division.

The news, confirmed in a May 16 letter from Fraser to Davies, comes
hot on the smoke trails of an Access to Information request made by
Canadians for Safe Access. It reveals that the government is marking
up its homegrown by as much as 1,500 per cent - buying it for $328
per kilo from sole suppier Prairie Plant Systems of Flin Flon,
Manitoba, and reselling it to medpot users at $150 an ounce. That's a
cool five grand profit per kilo.

According to CSA's request for info, cancer patients, people living
with AIDS and hep-C and others among the 351 Canadians who receive fed
pot have racked up a cumulative debt of $143,000 simply because they
can't afford the pot on government disability pensions.

But Margot Booth, media liaison for the office of the auditor general,
bursts my bong when she says, "We haven't committed to auditing that

Indeed, Fraser's letter informs Davies that her office is "not
committing to audit the specific issues you have raised," among them
the recognition of compassion clubs.

Regardless, Booth wouldn't be able to confirm whether an investigation
is underway, because audits remain private, even to the requester,
until a report is made to Parliament.

The financial issues surrounding the program will be the
attention-getter, according to CSA founder Philippe Lucas. More than
85 per cent of those living with HIV/AIDS who use medical cannabis
obtain it from the black market. Toronto's two compassion clubs alone
are assissting 4,000 sick people. As well as being overpriced, the
feds' pot is not effective.

"There are so many broad problems," he says. "The gall of placing
those charges on the backs of ill Canadians should have all sick and
healthy Canadians calling for an audit. Thirty million dollars has
been wasted, and probably double that in court costs defending the

The Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS) is currently defending
itself before the courts on weed production charges, following a 2004
RCMP raid in which 900 plants were confiscated.

The ensuing constitutional challenge launched by VICS, for which more
dates are scheduled this summer in BC Supreme Court, claims that the
federal medical cannabis program violates the constitutional rights of
critically and chronically ill Canadians by unnecessarily restricting
access to the program, supplying an inadequate source of cannabis and
instituting arbitrary limits on production and distribution.

Among the star weed witnesses was legalization advocate Senator Pierre
Claude Nolin, who wrote extensively about the role of compassion clubs
in his 2002 study.

Davies is fuming over the feds' failure to heed people like Lucas and
begin steps to recognize compassion clubs.

"I feel badly for those who depend on this program and face a
nightmare in accessing it. I think there's a general expectation that
all government programs are to be managed properly. This one is doing
the exact opposite. There's huge public support for the program and it
has a legitimate mandate, but it's not working properly."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake