Pubdate: Wed, 16 Mar 2016
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2016 Cape Breton Post
Page: A8


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 Sydney, was co-winner of the Nobel Prize in 
physics last fall 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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