Pubdate: Tue, 15 Mar 2016
Source: Truro Daily News (CN NS)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily News
Page: 6


As illustrious a scientist as Arthur McDonald is expressing optimism
about the current federal government's indication it will embrace the
scientific community.

That change in attitude by the Liberals as compared to the former
government should come as a relief to Canadians in general, for a
range of reasons.

McDonald, originally from Cape Breton, was co-winner of the Nobel
Prize in physics for his discoveries regarding sub- atomic particles
known as neutrinos. He congratulated the Justin Trudeau government for
its intention to promote science and innovation, and to allow
scientists to speak freely about their work - something the Harper
government forbade.

The open-minded attitude is key in the work of science and also in
developing benefits for society from their discoveries.

Advances in medicine are a good example, and a case in point currently
involves a request from Alberta involving cultivation of thebaine
poppies, which are processed into pain relievers such as morphine,
codeine and oxycodone. A lab in Lethbridge has been doing tests on the
substance and would like to build a $ 120- million processing plant.

Distinct from opium poppies, this variety reportedly does not contain
narcotic properties, making it especially suitable for these
medications. Canada currently imports $ 600 million worth of the
poppy, according to an article from The Canadian Press. That
represents a fairly substantial cash crop that could help some of the
country's struggling farmers, supporters of this project claim.

It's worth adding, too, that in a country with a rapidly aging
population and an anticipated strain on health care needs, the demand
for pain medications can be expected to grow.

This proposal regarding thebaine is reminiscent of discussion we've
had in recent years about medicinal marijuana. For too long research
has lagged into the effectiveness of components of that plant for
health needs, with the old stigma regarding its long-outlawed status
often getting in the way.

Again, in the case of this particular strain of poppy, we have a
potential source of raw ingredient for a host of medications. And,
again, likely the one obstacle that might hold up any move toward
establishing this as a domestic health product would be associating
the plant with its cousin and, thereby, the illegal drug trade.

That's where open-minded science comes in. There is plenty of
potential in this idea.
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