HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Canada To Sell Medical Marijuana To Seriously Ill
Pubdate: Wed,  9 Jul 2003
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Reuters Limited
Author: David Ljunggren
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada became on Wednesday the first country in the world
to start selling marijuana to several hundred seriously ill people but said
the pot project could be halted at any time.

Ottawa announced in July 2001 that some patients would be able to use
marijuana provided by the government. But plans to grow official pot hit a
series of snags, prompting a court in Ontario to give Ottawa until July 10
to come up with a solution.

The new plan is Ottawa's response to that ruling. Federal officials said
more research into the claimed benefits of medical pot was needed and they
would therefore appeal the court ruling, a decision that angered critics.

"My first obligation is to ensure the safety and efficacy of this product.
Marijuana is not a proven therapeutic product," said Health Minister Anne

"I remain committed to (Ottawa's) medical marijuana research program, which
promotes research on the medical value of marijuana while taking a
compassionate approach to Canadians who suffer from serious medical

The 582 sufferers granted dispensation from criminal laws to use the drug
will be able to buy dried marijuana for $3.70 per 0.04 ounce -- about half
the current black-market rate -- or a pack of 30 seeds for $20 so they can
grow their own plants.

"Although this interim policy can be amended or suspended at any time, it is
anticipated that it will remain in effect until...(Ottawa's) roles and
responsibilities with respect to a supply of marijuana for medical purposes
have been clarified by the courts," the health ministry said in a statement.

McLellan said despite the planned appeal, Ottawa would press ahead with
clinical trials to probe whether marijuana could really benefit the ill.

The drug -- grown in a special federal facility in a mine shaft in central
Canada -- will be given to patients by their doctors. Officials recommend
that patients do not smoke pot but rather put it in food, drinks or use
other methods.

Alison Myrden, who has multiple sclerosis, a disorder of the brain and
spinal cord, took part in a demonstration in Ottawa and condemned the
government for appealing the court ruling.

"This country has to act now...nobody wants us to play this political
football game any more. People are suffering and dying out there," she said.

Canada's approach is markedly different to that of the United States, where
the Supreme Court in 2001 upheld a federal ban on medical marijuana.

U.S. authorities have strongly criticized Canadian plans to decriminalize
the possession of small amounts of marijuana, arguing it could result in
highly potent pot flooding across the border.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk