HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drugstores Will Carry Marijuana
Pubdate: Mon, 22 Mar 2004
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Dean Beeby, The Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


A Pilot Project in B.C. Will Allow Pharmacies to Sell to Medical Users.

OTTAWA -- Health Canada plans to make government-certified marijuana
available in pharmacies, a move that could rapidly boost the number of
registered medical users. Officials are organizing a pilot project in
British Columbia, modelled on a year-old program in the Netherlands,
that would allow medical users to buy marijuana at their local drugstore.

Currently, there are 78 medical users in Canada permitted to buy
Health Canada marijuana, which is grown in Flin Flon, Man. The 30-gram
bags of dried buds, sold for $150 each, now are sent by courier
directly to patients or to their doctors.

But the department is changing the regulations to allow participating
pharmacies to stock marijuana for sale to approved patients without a
doctor's prescription, similar to regulations governing so-called
morning-after pills, emergency contraceptives that can be obtained
directly from a pharmacist without the need for a doctor's signature.

A notice of the change is expected to be made public this spring,
allowing for drugstore distribution later in the year.

"We're just at the preliminary stages right now," said Robin O'Brien,
a consulting pharmacist who is organizing the pilot project for Health
Canada. "We're not quite sure how it's going to fit."

Canada would become the second country in the world after the
Netherlands to allow the direct sale of medical marijuana in
pharmacies. It would also mark the first time community drugstores in
Canada could sell a controlled substance that is not an approved drug.

"The difficulty is that marijuana does not have a notice of
compliance, so it doesn't have a drug identification number," O'Brien
said from Vancouver.

"There's no pharmaceutical company that's going to come forward to
take it through the regulatory process because they can't get a patent
on it, so it's kind of a limbo drug."

The pilot project is slated for British Columbia because the
province's college of pharmacists issued a groundbreaking statement
last fall supporting the distribution of medical marijuana in
pharmacies, unlike most health-care organizations which have opposed
easier access.

Although the number of current approved users is small, O'Brien notes
internal surveys for Health Canada have suggested up to seven per cent
of the British Columbia population -- or about 290,000 people -- use
marijuana for medical purposes, albeit illegally.

Easier availability of certified marijuana might encourage more
medical users to register with the government, rapidly boosting the
number taking advantage of legal dope, says O'Brien.

"We're not quite sure how big it could get," she said.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the method of ingestion.
Pharmacists have long opposed tobacco products and do not want
patients smoking marijuana.

Solutions could include developing a liquid form -- a tincture -- or
capsules for oral ingestion, or the use of vapourizers that release
the essential ingredient THC without burning. 
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