Pubdate: Friday, 28 May 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Page: A2
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper, Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau


OTTAWA - Allan Rock appears high on home-grown, saying he would prefer
the marijuana for clinical pot trials be grown here in Canada.

``I think we're up to it as a nation, aren't we?'' the federal health
minister said yesterday.

Rock, who next month will announce details of clinical marijuana
trials for those who need it to ease pain, said there are benefits to
having the pot grown here under the watchful eyes of government

``The advantages might be you'd have a consistent percentage of THC,
consistent quality, a level of cleanliness which is consistent,'' he

``Especially when you are doing research, you want to reduce the
number of variables, one of them being the quality of the marijuana
being smoked.''

THC is the active substance that provides the ``buzz'' for cannabis

Health Canada has so far received 26 requests from people who wish to
use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Later in the day, Rock was asked about his personal history with pot.
`I have never smoked marijuana . . . for medicinal purposes,'' Rock

Lawyer Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy
said Canada grows good quality cannabis, which is already being used
for therapeutic purposes.

``It just takes a wave of the wand by the minister to give someone
permission to grow it,'' he said.

``If he wants a Canadian supply, it shouldn't take long to get it.
That should be no excuse for feet-dragging.''

Oscapella said higher THC levels would be important for therapeutic
smokers because they would smoke less and therefore be exposed to less

``They're proud of their marijuana in British Columbia, but there are
plenty of people in Ontario using Ontario pot,'' he said. ``It's like
any drug, however, in that dosage and quality will vary. That's why we
have clinical trials.''

Earlier this week, the House of Commons approved a motion legalizing
the use of marijuana for health and medical reasons.

Reform critic Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) said his party
backs the therapeutic use of pot but wants to ensure it not be used as
a route to legalizing marijuana.

``We do not want this to become a loophole whereby people can say they
have a headache and need to take marijuana,'' he said.

Progressive Conservative critic Peter McKay (Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough)
voiced his party's support, but said Rock is moving too slowly.

He referred to statements by Vancouver's Compassion Club, which
supplies free marijuana to ease the pain of ill clients, saying Rock's
pace means ``more individuals will continue to suffer until
legislation is passed.''

The marijuana debate has caused levity in the Commons.

Reform finance critic Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat) took a jab at
Finance Minister Paul Martin during daily Question Period yesterday
after what he considered a convoluted reply to his question.

``Just two days after we passed the medical marijuana motion and
already we are getting answers like this,'' Solberg said.

Martin failed to point out that Solberg had to admit he voted twice
when the pot motion was put to the Commons Tuesday.

Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras (Rosemont) introduced the motion
calling for the legalization of marijuana for clinical use.

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