HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Pot Not Up to Snuff
Pubdate: Mon, 05 Apr 2004
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2004
Author: Donald McArthur, Star Staff Reporter


Activist Says Product Has to Improve

Unless the government learns to grow better dope, a proposal to
distribute Health Canada marijuana in pharmacies will go up in smoke,
say local medical marijuana advocates.

"They have to improve their product or this project isn't going to go
anywhere at all," said Fred Pritchard of Windsor's marijuana
compassion club.

"I can't believe the government pushes this garbage on sick people.
We're going to make them sicker."

A 43-year-old Windsor woman authorized to smoke pot for medical
reasons said she became sick after trying the Health Canada weed last
fall and sent it back to the government in disgust.

"I had anxiety so bad and I had nausea so bad and I was crying," said
the woman, who asked not to be identified. "I'd been waiting so long
and it was just such a big letdown. It's not fit for human

The federal government gave Prairie Plant Systems Inc. a five-year
$5.7 million contract in December 2000 to grow marijuana in a former
copper mine in Flin Flon, Man. The product has been blasted as
inferior "schwag" and vilified for giving users nausea and headaches.

The physical difference between the government grass and marijuana
Pritchard supplies to patients permitted to indulge for medical
reasons couldn't be more marked.

The Flin Flon marijuana, distributed to patients in 30-gram bags for
$150, comes in a "shake" or powder form, with brown flakes and what
appear to be ground up stems. It is light-green in colour, resembles
oregano or catnip, and has no discernible smell.

"It tastes like lumber," Pritchard said. "I don't know how anybody is
going to get any relief from this."

Pritchard's marijuana consists of rich, moist, green buds and has an
overpowering, sickly sweet smell. It is flecked with resin exuding
glandular trichomes, the hairs or crystals used to make hashish.

Health Canada maintains its marijuana has a THC content of 10 per
cent, on par with the average THC content of street marijuana seized
by police. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive substance in
marijuana that makes users feel high or stoned.

Pritchard doubts the 10 per cent figure, but hasn't conducted any

Health Canada spokeswoman Catherine Saunders acknowledged the
government has received significant "feedback" from users.

"The criticism is based on personal perceptions," she said. "We're
exploring ways of modifying the manner in which the marijuana is
physically prepared."

More than 700 Canadians are authorized to take marijuana for medical
reasons but only 78 of them have been approved to receive Health
Canada marijuana.

Saunders couldn't explain the lack of demand except to say "people
aren't applying."

The government is considering a proposal that would allow those 78
patients to purchase Flin Flon marijuana in British Columbia
pharmacies. If the pilot project is successful it could spread
throughout the country.

Allowed to Hold

As of February, 717 Canadians, including 258 in Ontario, are allowed
to possess marijuana for medical reasons. 
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