HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html
Pubdate: Mon, 27 May 2002 Source: Report Magazine (CN AB) Copyright: 2002 Report Magazine, United Western Comm Ltd Contact: http://www.report.ca/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1327 Note: This is the BC Edition Author: Marnie Ko Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmjcn.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada) PROBLEMS WITH OTTAWA'S POT CROP Bad News For Medical Users, But Decriminalization Gets Closer All The Time PRAIRIE Plant Systems Inc., a Saskatoon company, has grown more than 250 kilograms of unharvested marijuana since it got a $5.7-million contract with Health Canada. The pot is for research and for pain relief for those with incurable multiple sclerosis, cancer, severe arthritis and epilepsy, and anyone in pain with less than a year to live. However, an indefinite government delay now means patients who want the drug must supply it themselves or name someone else to grow it for them. Prairie Plant's first harvest of government marijuana had been scheduled for delivery in January. But last month it was disclosed that distribution of the plants, under cultivation in an abandoned copper mine near Flin Flon, 400 miles northwest of Winnipeg, has been delayed. Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan admitted May 7 that the government's pot is substandard. The Flin Flon crop of 2,000 plants contains a rainbow of pot varieties, 185 in all, using seeds from police busts. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency uses a standardized seed, but Ms. McLellan said U.S. authorities would not share, so Canada was left with crops of various potency and quality. It must now test seeds and create a standardized variety for subsequent crops. A few hundred Canadians are not waiting. Since July 2001, when the government passed new legislation, 255 ill Canadians have been licensed to possess the plant. As of May 3, 164 people had obtained licences to produce the plant, and 11 individuals were authorized to grow the plants for others. An additional 658 Canadians were granted permission to use marijuana for medicinal purposes and 501 of those users remain active. Despite appearances, none of this means marijuana has actually been approved as a therapeutic substance by the federal government. Following a government report released May 1, however, debate on decriminalizing cannabis entirely is expected to reach an all-time high. After 14 months of study and consideration, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, told reporters marijuana is used by about 30% of people aged 15 to 24. Still, contrary to common assumptions, he concluded that it is not a "gateway drug" leading to cocaine, heroine and other hard drug use. Indeed, Mr. Nolin noted it might be appropriate to treat marijuana "more like alcohol or tobacco." Six public hearings will be held between now and August, and Canadians in five cities will be asked whether marijuana should be made legal before the committee prepares a final report. Meanwhile, although a large amount of anecdotal evidence and personal stories extol the virtues of marijuana, almost no studies exist on its medicinal properties, if any. One University of California-San Francisco study, in preliminary stages and still ongoing, found that patients who smoked marijuana gained significantly more weight than those receiving a placebo, and had slightly lower viral levels. This could offer significant benefit to those patients using marijuana for chronic (catabolic) wasting, which includes nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite and severe weight loss. An Institute of Medicine study commissioned by the White House also found that cannabinoid drugs such as marijuana reduce anxiety, stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, and offer pain relief, and suggested pot was suitable for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and HIV wasting. Animal studies have also found cannabis products a mild to moderate analgesic, with more benefits than opiates, which can be inconsistent for chronic pain, and result in nausea and sedation. One small study, with only three human subjects, found that marijuana smoking ended migraine headache attacks. Researchers theorized marijuana suppresses pain by feeding the periaqueductral gray (PAG) region of the brain, part of the neural system with an abundance of existing cannabinoid receptors, and the part of the brain where migraines are believed to originate. Indeed, marijuana was a popular treatment for headache from 1874 to 1942. Then it was criminalized, and other drugs took its place. Still, some North Americans swear by pot. Last year, AIDS activist and freelance writer Phillip Alden of San Francisco told reporters he suffers constant nausea on anti-HIV medication, and has chronic wasting syndrome. A lungful of pot before dinner makes him hungry. He must eat enormous quantities of food to maintain his weight. "I start cooking dinner and take a couple hits off my pipe. Then I eat dinner, dessert, snacks, and keep eating right up until bedtime."