HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ottawa Hires Saskatoon Firm To Supply Pot
Pubdate: Fri, 22 Dec 2000
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2000 Southam Inc.
Contact:  300 - 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3R5
Fax: (416) 442-2209
Author: Chris Wattie, National Post
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Used For Clinical Trials:
First Official Supplier Of Marijuana To Federal Government

A Saskatchewan company has won a $5.75-million contract to become
Canada's first official supplier of marijuana, the federal government
announced yesterday.

Prairie Plant Systems Inc. will grow almost a tonne of what Health
Canada calls "research-grade marijuana" over the five-year contract,
as well as drying, processing and rolling the crop into more than a
million cigarettes.

The Saskatoon-based company, which has specialized in fruit trees and
replanting for most of its 10-year history, will grow the marijuana
360 metres underground, in an unused shaft of a copper and zinc mine
in Flin Flon, Man.

Brent Zettel, president of the firm, said the contract was the first
of its kind. "It's a landmark in history -- the first [contract] in
the world of this nature."

However, he acknowledged with a laugh that he is not entirely sure how
to make the adjustment from fruit tree planter to official drug
supplier to the federal government.

"I'm not going to go out and buy a Lamborghini and sunglasses yet," he
said in a telephone interview from Saskatoon. "I'm not ready for the
drug dealer look."

Prairie Plant Systems was selected over 34 competitors for the
contract, based at least in part on the security of a greenhouse
located deep in the bedrock of northern Manitoba.

"When they asked us about security, we told them that basically it was
360 metres underground and there was only one entrance," Mr. Zettel
said. "They didn't quite believe us ... we had to bring them out and
show them."

The Manitoba-grown marijuana will be used for clinical trials to
determine whether it is medically effective and safe for people
suffering from diseases such as AIDS or cancer to smoke marijuana.

The contract requires Prairie Plant Systems to supply the government
with 185 kilograms of marijuana in the first year and 420 kilograms in
subsequent crop years.

The company will also be rolling marijuana cigarettes for delivery to
the more than 140 people officials say are authorized to use marijuana
for medicinal purposes.

The marijuana will be provided free of charge, as long as the users
take part in research programs, said Jody Gomber, director general of
Health Canada's drug strategy and controlled substances program.

In return for a free supply, the recipients and their doctors will
have to provide feedback on the effect of the drugs on their illness,
among other things.

"There has been a great deal of analytical evidence about
effectiveness of marijuana for various illnesses but there is very
little good scientific information," Ms. Gomber said.

"One of the things that's necessary in order to do good research is to
have a standard and quality controlled source of the substance."

The percentage of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in the
Manitoba-grown marijuana will be between 5% and 6%, Ms. Gomber said.

"A Canadian source of research-grade marijuana is essential to move
forward on our research plan," Health Minister Allan Rock said in a

The clinical trials, to begin in about a year, will be conducted amid
fierce debate on the legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and
general use.

The federal government is considering changing its drug laws to allow
the sick to smoke marijuana instead of the current practice of
requiring people to seek individual exemptions, which was struck down
as unconstitutional in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Last week, an Alberta judge ruled that the federal law banning
cultivation of marijuana is unconstitutional because it does not allow
for the medical use of the drug. Judge Darlene Acton said granting
exemptions without a legal supply is an "absurdity."
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