HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana Program Thrown For A Loop When US
Pubdate: Tue, 07 May 2002
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Dennis Bueckert
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


OTTAWA (CP) - U.S. drug-enforcement authorities threw Health Canada's 
medical marijuana program for a loop by refusing to provide access to their 
research-quality supply of seeds. The story about what went wrong in the 
medical pot program emerged Tuesday for the first time, as Health Minister 
Anne McLellan explained protracted delays in providing marijuana to 
eligible patients.

The program was intended for people dying or suffer from specific painful 
conditions, both for research and for compassionate reasons.

Former health minister Allan Rock announced details of the program in April 
2001, saying the marijuana was supposed to be available by January.

But it emerged Tuesday at a committee meeting that U.S. authorities refused 
last year to supply Canada with reliable, tested seeds. The U.S. decision 
wasn't announced at the time, nor was it mentioned by Rock.

That left Health Canada to use seeds police had confiscated, which have 
produced a crop containing at least 185 different varieties of pot, from 
dynamite to dud quality.

McLellan isn't giving any new target dates for availability.

"We remain committed to ensuring that eligible Canadians have access to a 
standardized supply of research-grade marijuana for medical purposes," 
McLellan told the Commons health committee.

"While our policy has not changed, our time lines have."

The situation raises questions about how Rock could announce a high-profile 
plan to grow medical marijuana without having an assured source of seeds.

In December 2000, Prairie Plant Systems of Saskatoon was chosen to provide 
Health Canada with quality, standardized marijuana, to be delivered by 
January 2002.

The projection was based on the assumption that Prairie Plant Systems would 
have access to reliable, tested seeds, McLellan said.

Assistant deputy Health Minister Dann Michols said Health Canada negotiated 
for months to get seeds from the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, 
which did marijuana research that has ended.

"They had the only legal source of supply of marijuana but they needed 
clearance from the Drug Enforcement Agency and it didn't come." said Michols.

He said he didn't know why access was refused, but conceded there are 
people in the U.S. government opposed to research on marijuana's benefits.

Michols said Prairie Plant Systems will have to sort through the seeds they 
have to find those with the right characteristics to establish a 
standardized supply. That could take months.

McLellan said problems are to be expected since Health Canada's effort to 
make medical marijuana available is the first such program in the world.

Once a standardized, potent supply of marijuana has been developed, Health 
Canada will conduct clinical trials to establish its therapeutic benefits, 
which will take additional years.

"No one is more concerned than I am in relation to this situation but . . . 
trial and error is going to be a part of it and I think people have to be 
patient," said McLellan.

"These are medical trials and therefore we have to make sure that we have a 
standardized product. If not, what would you be saying about the Department 
of Health and what would you be saying about me?"

The department will continue to permit people with a doctor's approval to 
grow their own pot, or get someone to grow it for them, even though that 
product obviously won't be standardized.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager