Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jun 1999
Source: Canadian Press (Canada)
Copyright: 1999 The Canadian Press (CP).
Author: Dennis Bueckert


OTTAWA (CP) - The federal government has given permission for the
cultivation and use of marijuana for medical purposes for the first time in
Canadian history.  Health Minister Allan Rock announced Wednesday he has
granted special exemptions from federal drug law to Jim Wakeford of Toronto
and Jean-Charles Pariseau of Vanier, Ont., both of whom have AIDS.

"This about showing compassion to people, often dying, suffering from grave
debilitating illness," Rock told the Commons on Wednesday.

He said the Health Department will soon invite bids from firms interested
in supplying marijuana for use in coming clinical trials.

"I want a Canadian source," he said outside the House.  "We're going to be
putting the job out for tender to find someone who can grow us a reliable
consistent quality for research purposes."

He denied the move is a step toward legalization of marijuana: "No more
than the use of heroin or morphine in hospitals is a step toward legalizing

People with illnesses such as cancer and AIDS have claimed for years that
marijuana helps to relieve pain and stimulate appetite.  So far there is
little solid scientific data to support those claims.

Rock said his department will fund clinical trials at several sites,
initially using marijuana supplied by the U.S. National Institute of Drug

He said he has received 30 applications from individuals wishing to use
marijuana for medical purposes, and will process them quickly.

The Health Department is also negotiating with a British firm to test a
non-smoked form of marijuana, which is ingested using an inhaler.

Despite the new openness on medical usage of marijuana, federal laws
against the drug remain in force and are applied, resulting in many
convictions every year.

Critics charge the laws are applied unevenly, with low-income youth the
main enforcement target.

Currently, marijuana is not approved for medical use in any country. Only a
few clinical trials have been done, and they've been inconclusive.
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