HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Health Canada Dope Stinks, Patients Say
Pubdate: Tue, 16 Sep 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A11
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Dean Beeby, Canadian Press
Note: The press release that resulted in this story, along with links to 
research graphs and photos, is at the bottom of this page
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Cannabis Emptor: Medical Marijuana Called Disgusting, Weak And Ineffective

OTTAWA (CP) -- Some of the first patients to smoke Health Canada's
government-approved marijuana say it's "disgusting" and want their money back.

"It's totally unsuitable for human consumption," said Jim Wakeford, 58, an
AIDS patient in Gibsons, B.C.

"It gave me a slight buzziness for about three to five minutes, and that
was it. I got no other effect from it."

Barrie Dalley, a 52-year-old Toronto man who uses marijuana to combat the
nausea associated with AIDS, said the Health Canada dope actually made him
sick to his stomach.

"I threw up," Mr. Dalley said yesterday.

"It made me nauseous because I had to use so much of it. It was so weak in
potency that I really threw up."

Both men are returning their 30-gram bags, and Mr. Dalley is demanding his
money back, $150 plus taxes. Mr. Wakeford is returning his unpaid bill with
a letter of complaint.

A third AIDS patient says he's also unhappy with the product, which is
supposed to contain 10.2 per cent THC, the main active ingredient.

"I'm still smoking it -- I would prefer better, but it's all I've got,"
Jari Dvorak, 62, said in Toronto.

"I think Health Canada certainly should do better with the quality."

All three are among a handful of patients who have registered with Health
Canada to buy dope directly from the government to alleviate their medical

The department was compelled to begin direct distribution in July, after an
Ontario court order earlier this year said that needy patients should not
be forced to get their cannabis on the streets or from authorized growers,
who themselves obtain seeds or cuttings illegally.

The marijuana is being grown for Health Canada deep underground, in a
vacant mine section in Flin Flon, Man., by Prairie Plant Systems on a
$5.75-million contract. The department originally intended that the product
go first to accredited researchers to demonstrate whether cannabis is
medically effective.

Health Minister Anne McLellan has said that she opposes the direct
distribution of government cannabis to patients and that the program will
end if the department wins its appeal of the Ontario court decision.

In Quebec City yesterday, she said she is willing to have officials from
her department compare notes with the smokers.

"We're learning as we go along and I'd be happy to have my officials meet
with these people."

The government dope also came under fire yesterday from Canadians for Safe
Access, a patients-rights group that is pressing for supplies of safe,
effective marijuana.

Laboratory tests indicate the Health Canada product has only about 3 per
cent THC -- not the 10.2 per cent advertised -- and contains contaminants
such as lead and arsenic, said spokesman Philippe Lucas of Victoria.

"This particular product wouldn't hold a candle to street-level cannabis,"
he said in an interview.

But Mr. Lucas declined to identify the three labs that did the testing,
other than to indicate they're in Vancouver, saying he fears the facilities
might suffer repercussions from Health Canada because they were not
authorized to possess the cannabis.

He also would not say how the group obtained the sample of government dope.

Mr. Lucas, who smokes marijuana to cope with his hepatitis C infection,
said the lab results also showed that the cannabis provided at a Victoria
compassion club for patients registers at more than 12 per cent and is
freer from contaminants.

He said the government cannabis was too finely ground up with stems and
leaves, calling it "shwag" or "bunk," street terminology for the lowest
grade of marijuana.

Health Canada officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment
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