HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medicinal-Pot Users Fuming Over Delays
Pubdate: Sat, 22 Dec 2001
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2001, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Carolyn Abraham, Brian Laghi
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


While 250 kilograms of marijuana sits in cold storage in a Manitoba 
mineshaft, Health Canada is learning it is not easy to be a drug 

The government announced last December that it would take the 
unprecedented step of growing the otherwise illegal weed for 
medicinal purposes. A year later, federal bureaucrats are still 
trying to figure out how to package, label and distribute their first 
dope harvest.

Officials have not decided whether to roll it into joints, send it 
out in Ziploc bags, grind it or deliver it in bulk. They are 
investigating whether to make it available from drugstore pharmacists 
or by personal courier. Neither has the department pinned down the 
labelling details of the drug's active ingredients or its shelf life.

Sick people who have received special exemptions to possess pot as a 
medical treatment are anxiously awaiting the shipments. But with many 
issues unresolved, the company hired to grow the pot in an abandoned 
Flin Flon mine estimates that delivery could still be three to four 
months away.

"Unless by some stroke of ingenuity they can expedite the process, my 
expectation is that it could be that long before we have it in the 
hands of exemptees," said Brent Zettl, president of Prairie Plant 
Systems Inc., which won the $5.7-million cannabis contract. "But this 
is the first time anyone in the world is doing this, and there has to 
be due process."

Cindy Cripps-Prawak, director of the government's Office of Cannabis 
Medical Access, acknowledged that she has received angry phone calls 
from impatient exemptees. But since the government is breaking new 
ground dealing in a product more commonly known as an illicit street 
drug, she said: "I think we're moving as quickly as is safe. We want 
to make a pharmaceutical-grade product available."

Health sources said yesterday they plan to get in touch with the 680 
people who have been approved to possess marijuana to see how they 
would like to have it delivered. There are only three ways they can 
legally obtain the drug: they must grow it themselves, have someone 
else grow it for them or obtain it from Health Canada.

The government hopes those who use its drug supply will also 
participate in research on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. But it 
is not yet clear how much exemptees will have to pay for the drug or 
whether those who take part in a clinical trial will be charged.

Over the past year, Ms. Cripps-Prawak said, the department's thinking 
on the matter has evolved. While the original contract with Prairie 
Plant Systems called for the production of marijuana cigarettes, for 
example, the department has since heard that exemptees prefer to roll 
their own.

Many who rely on marijuana to relieve chronic pain or build appetite 
have accused the government of growing weak weed, since the federal 
contract called for levels of THC, marijuana's main active 
ingredient, of between 5 per cent and 7 per cent. But preliminary 
tests on the first harvest, which was grown from pot confiscated by 
police across Canada, appears to be a bumper crop with THC levels at 
least as high as 12 per cent.

Ms. Cripps-Prawak said her office is considering formulating 
different blends of marijuana to make it available at different 
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