HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Marijuana Advocates Offer Health Canada Tips
Pubdate: Thu, 03 Aug 2000
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Ottawa Citizen
Contact:  1101 Baxter Rd.,Ottawa, Ontario, K2C 3M4
Fax: 613-596-8522
Author: Idella Sturino


MONTREAL (CP) - People with criminal records shouldn't be excluded from
supplying medicinal marijuana, a group that advocates the therapeutic use of
pot recommended Wednesday.

Health Canada should consider the knowledge of long-time growers who may
have faced charges for growing marijuana, said Marc-Boris St-Maurice of the
Canadian Cannabis Coalition.

"Valuable experience in breeding marijuana is lost and nothing is gained by
this criteria," St-Maurice told a news conference.

Exluding them from supplying marijuana in medical trials to be conducted by
Ottawa isn't in the best interests of people who need it, he said.

Last year, Health Minister Allan Rock announced Ottawa would gather evidence
on the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in treating medical conditions.
Rock said the federal government was looking for suppliers of high-grade pot
for the trials.

The Canadian Cannabis Coalition made public a list of recommendations that
it will give to Health Canada for the medical trials.

Advocates for the medicinal use of marijuana say pot can ease nausea and
stimulate appetites in people who suffer from symptoms of epilepsy, multiple
sclerosis, AIDS and other illnesses.

St-Maurice said Rock also has excluded small-scale growers from providing
medicinal pot.

St-Maurice volunteers at a Montreal centre called the Compassion Club which
provides therapeutic pot to people with chronic illnesses. The centres also
operate in Toronto and Vancouver. Patients must have a doctor's prescription
to get marijuana.

Health Canada has the power to grant exemptions to people who want to use
pot for medicinal reasons, but it has only granted about 50 to date.

The Cannabis Coalition also said Wednesday researchers shouldn't limit their
study to the effects of mild marijuana.

"This might seem shocking, but as far as medical marijuana is concerned, the
safer marijuana is the one that is more potent," St-Maurice said.

He said stronger pot prompts people to inhale less smoke and does less
damage to their lungs.

Health Canada wouldn't comment Wednesday on the coalition's recommendations.
Spokeswoman Roslyn Tremblay said Health Canada needs time to review the

Tremblay added that Health Canada expects to announce suppliers for the
clinical trials this fall.

The coalition's comments came just two days after the Ontario Court of
Appeal declared unconstitutional the law that prohibits possession of

The court ruled the law fails to recognize that pot can be used for
medicinal purposes by people with chronic illnesses. It said if Ottawa
doesn't clarify the law within a year, marijuana possession will be legal
for anyone in Ontario.

However, possession of marijuana is still illegal and the law remains in
full force. Health Canada officials have said they would study the decision.

Montreal police wouldn't comment the group's recommendations, which also
included the use of organically grown pot.
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