HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Select Drugstores To Sell Pot
Pubdate: Wed, 14 Sep 2005
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2005 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Dean Beeby, Canadian Press, with Free Press files
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Feds Starting Pilot Project Early Next Year

OTTAWA -- Health Canada's long-delayed plan to sell government-certified 
marijuana in drugstores appears to be back on track for early next year.

The pilot project would stock medicinal pot in some pharmacies for use by 
authorized patients, making Canada only the second country after The 
Netherlands to allow easier access through drugstores.

Currently, 237 patients can get Health Canada's medical marijuana through 
Prairie Plant Systems Inc., which grows the weed in Flin Flon, Man., under 
a $5.75-million contract with the federal government. Thirty-gram bags of 
dried buds, costing $150 each, are couriered directly to patients or their 

But since early 2003, when senior officials visited The Netherlands to 
investigate that country's marijuana distribution program, Health Canada 
has looked for a way to insert a pharmacist between the manufacturer and 
the patient.

The department is scouting out a handful of urban and rural pharmacies to 
begin the pilot project by the first quarter of 2006, spokesman Christopher 
Williams said.

Health Canada had initially planned a project for last year, but 
regulations authorizing pharmacy distribution only came into effect on June 
7 after a long period of consultation. "Ideally, we'd like to run it in 
more than one province," Williams said in an interview. "Once we recruit 
the pharmacists, we'll make sure (they) receive specialized training in 
dispensing the marijuana for medical purposes."

But while the drugstore plan could help the authorized patients get easier 
access to the drug, Flin Flon's mayor doesn't think it will lead to an 
economic spinoff for his community.

"I've been saying since this started that it has great potential for Flin 
Flon, but not with marijuana," Mayor Dennis Ballard said last night.

"They probably only have five employees here. But if you can grow 
marijuana, there's lots of herbal medications that can be grown there, and 
that would be big. They can grow roses and tomatoes there, but I keep 
waiting for them to grow other herbal medications."

Currently, 943 people are authorized to possess marijuana for medical 
conditions ranging from AIDS to multiple sclerosis, once a doctor has 
indicated that traditional remedies are ineffective.

Of these, 695 have permission to grow the plant themselves, while Health 
Canada has authorized 77 growers to produce it for other patients. Prairie 
Plant Systems is also distributing a flowering-bud product that currently 
contains about 14 per cent THC, the main active ingredient. The company's 
five-year contract ends in December, but is expected to be extended by a 
year as Health Canada issues a request for proposals for a new long-term 

The first pharmacies to stock the product are likely to be in British 
Columbia, said Robin O'Brien, a Vancouver pharmacist who has been asked by 
Health Canada to participate as a consultant.

An internal document from Health Canada says it could take up to three 
years to implement a national pharmacy distribution program.
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