HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Feds' Wily Weed Cash Ruse
Pubdate: Thu, 28 Sep 2006
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Matt Mernagh


A $4 million slash to medical marijuana research funding announced by 
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty Monday (September 25) led to early 
celebration among medpot activists. "It was really exciting this 
morning when the rumour was that the Tories cut the whole program," 
says Vancouver Island Compassion Society founder Philippe Lucas with 
only a small hint of sarcasm.

Turns out the Tories aren't stoner stupid. The "cut" represents money 
that hadn't actually been allocated, just earmarked for research.

Any elimination of funding for Health Canada's medpot program would, 
activists argue, have put the feds in violation of the 2000 Parker 
court ruling that upheld the right to medical pot and killed possession laws.

Newly hired Health Canada spokesperson Jason Bouzanis says, "The 
[Marihuana Medical Access Division, or MMAD] program is operating as 
usual," processing applications and selling med cannabis to between 
1,200 and 1,400 users.

Bouzanis confirms that only $2 million was ever doled out of the 
original $7.5 million earmarked for reefer research, while about $5.5 
million remains to be spent. Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies has 
requested that Auditor General Sheila Fraser look into the accounting 
of all money spent on the program.

Flaherty, known for his budgetary tricks during the Mike Harris 
years, is playing money magician for the Cons' core supporters with 
claims of saving "their hard-earned tax dollars" while also appearing 
to pick on potheads.

Flaherty's spokesperson, Eric Richer, laughs when I ask if the 
unspent portion of the medical marijuana money is sitting unused in a 
bank account.

"The money is not in a vault somewhere," he says.

Richer is less forthcoming when pressed to clarify the minister's 
comment that the feds "will not tell professional researchers what to study."

Do the Tories intend to allow private enterprise to make up for their 
lack of interest in cannabis research?

Richer laughs. "That's a fair question."

Anyone interested in filling the research void can download the 
applications from the Health Canada website right now. Amazingly, 
researcher and cultivator applications are already streamlined to a 
concise seven pages, unlike the 32-page behemoth medpot users have to fill out.

But there's a catch.

A researcher can't have a study approved until a cultivator licence 
is granted, but that licence won't be issued until the study is approved.
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