HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Federal Pot Gets Not-So-High Marks
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Aug 2003
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2003, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Canadian Press


HIV-Infected Toronto Man Takes First Toke

TORONTO -- An HIV-infected man, who is among the first of about 500 
Canadians legally approved for medicinal marijuana, took his first toke of 
government-grown weed after picking it up from his doctor yesterday.

"I'd give it a five on a scale from one to 10," said Jari Dvorak, who 
received a call Monday saying his two 30-gram bags of marijuana had been 
couriered and were ready to smoke.

Despite the mediocre review, he said it was a significant day for medicinal 
marijuana users nationwide.

"It's a happy moment for a lot of sick people in Canada," he said. "We 
should rejoice. This is the beginning of something Canada can be proud of."

Dvorak, who says marijuana helps him combat nausea, applied to Health 
Canada a month ago for access to government weed.

He is one of only six people expected to receive the drug from doctors for 
the time being. Health Canada is currently looking over 14 more 
applications, said spokesman Jirina Vlk.

The marijuana, sealed in glossy, golden packages emblazoned with a red 
Maple Leaf, comes from a subterranean lab in Flin Flon, Man., where it is 
being grown by Prairie Plant Systems under contract to the federal government.

Each 30-gram pack costs $150 - about $100 cheaper than street prices - and 
is subject to provincial and federal sales tax.

Dvorak, who has been smoking pot to cope with his illness for seven years, 
held a party to test the marijuana yesterday afternoon.

He said despite the approval of Health Canada, his doctor was still not 
entirely comfortable with supplying him with marijuana.

However, Dvorak said it gives him peace of mind to know he now has easier 
access to the drug.

"I don't want to be a criminal when I'm buying the medication from 
dealers," he said, adding that getting marijuana from pharmacies or 
compassion clubs would be a better alternative.

"It's no big deal to get pot these days, but it's costing a lot of money."

Doctors are wary of giving out marijuana due to its uncertain legal status 
and health benefits, putting them "in a difficult position," said John 
Maxted, director of health policy and communication for the College of 
Family Physicians of Canada.

"We need to acknowledge there doesn't appear yet to be sufficient research 
whether there are definite long-term effects with the use of marijuana," he 

Critics have frequently questioned Health Minister Anne McLellan's 
commitment to the medical marijuana program set up by her predecessor, 
Allan Rock.

McLellan has said she doesn't believe Health Canada should be in the 
business of distributing cannabis, and has indicated that will end if her 
ministry wins its appeal of an Ontario ruling currently before the courts. 
A decision is not expected until September at the earliest, said defence 
lawyer Alan Young.
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