HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Head of Medical-Pot Program Resigns
Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jul 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A9
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Contact:  http://www.globeandmail.ca/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/168
Author: Dennis Bueckert, Canadian Press
Cited: Canadians for Safe Access http://www.safeaccess.ca/
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmjcn.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)

HEAD OF MEDICAL-POT PROGRAM RESIGNS

OTTAWA -- Health Canada's medical marijuana program seems gripped by chaos
after the departure of its boss, Cindy Cripps-Prawak.

Ms. Cripps-Prawak left her job as director of the Office of Cannabis
Medical Access last week, Health Canada spokeswoman Jirina Vlk confirmed
yesterday.

It's the second recent resignation from the marijuana program. Greg
Robinson, a doctor who has AIDS, resigned from Health Canada's advisory
committee because of what he described as inconsistencies in the access
program.

Ms. Cripps-Prawak left last Friday, two days after the department
introduced a plan to distribute medical marijuana through doctors' offices.
The interim plan was introduced in response to an Ontario court ruling that
patients had to be given some legal means of obtaining the drug, and
doctors and patients have criticized it with equal vehemence.

The Canadian Medical Association has strongly advised doctors not to
participate.

Ms. Vlk said Ms. Cripps-Prawak was promoted to a job in another department,
and her move had nothing to do with the new plan: "It was decided many
months ago that she was leaving."

But Robert Goyer, chairman of Health Canada's advisory committee on medical
marijuana, said he was not surprised that Ms. Cripps-Prawak had left.
"Quite frankly, I wonder why would anybody stay in that job so long," he said.

Critics have frequently questioned Health Minister Anne McLellan's
commitment to the medical marijuana program set up by her predecessor,
Allan Rock. She has said she doesn't believe Health Canada should be in the
business of distributing cannabis, and has indicated the distribution will
end if her department wins its appeal of the Ontario court ruling.

Mr. Rock won the approval of the federal cabinet to provide medical
marijuana to ill or dying patients. The federal government awarded a
contract to a Saskatoon company to use a mine in Manitoba to grow pot for
this express purpose.

Ms. McLellan has expressed a diametrically different view. She disdains
being forced to provide marijuana to patients.

Dr. Goyer, professor emeritus of pharmacology at the University of
Montreal, cited many problems in the program and says it needs to be
"re-engineered."

That is the general view of members on the advisory committee, he said.
Minutes from the committee's meeting in February refer to the "need for
profound changes to medical marijuana access regulations."

Dr. Goyer said he was saddened by the departure of Dr. Robinson, who uses
marijuana to treat loss of appetite due to AIDS.

"I hoped with my heart and my soul and brain that he would postpone his
resignation," Dr. Goyer said.

Philippe Lucas of Canadians for Safe Access said the program is a mess.

"I'm sure that nobody in that program right now is enjoying the work that
they're doing," he said.

"They're either having to deny incredibly sick people medicine, or they're
being forced through the courts to supply it unwillingly," he said.

Dana Hanson, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said doctors
would be more supportive if all people receiving cannabis were enrolled in
clinical trials.

"I think it's a missed opportunity. Everyone could learn from this as to
the pros and cons."
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