HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ease Pot Restrictions - CAS
Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jul 2006
Source: Xtra West (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Pink Triangle Press
Author: Jefferson Mendoza
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Health / Research Study Outlines Problems And Solutions

A new study from the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) says Canadians 
living with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses need better access 
to medical marijuana. The study report identifies barriers that 
prevent patients from getting a reliable and affordable supply of 
medical pot and proposes ways to make access easier.

According to the CAS, barriers include lack of awareness of the 
existence of Health Canada's cannabis access program, misinformation 
about the program, general mistrust of government, and difficulty 
finding doctors who will support program applications.

Today, those needing medicinal weed can get it legally only from very 
limited sources: buying cannabis grown by a government contractor, 
buying seeds from the government and growing plants on their own, or 
designating a person to grow plants only for them.

But with 58,000 Canadians living with HIV/AIDS, only 1,399 people are 
authorized by Health Canada to possess cannabis. Only 26 percent of 
those who participated in the CAS study have valid authorization, and 
only 1.7 percent of those users get their marijuana from the 
government. The vast majority of study participants indicated they 
get their weed from illegal sources. And the government has expressed 
its intention to phase out growers licences, which will further force 
users to either go without the benefits of medical marijuana or to 
break the law for the sake of their health and quality of life.

Physicians may be unwilling to support their patients' program 
applications on a wider scale, the report says, because research into 
the effects of long term use of weed-especially the effects of 
smoking it-has been hampered by the stigmatization of marijuana as a 
purely recreational drug. The Canadian Medical Protective 
Association-the insurer for the medical profession-advised doctors in 
2001 not to complete the government program documents unless they 
have "detailed knowledge" about cannabis.

But the CAS study indicates between 14 and 37 percent of those living 
with HIV/AIDS already use marijuana to help alleviate symptoms like 
appetite loss, wasting, nausea, pain, anxiety, depression and stress.

It stands to reason, and research has shown, that those struggling 
with nausea may be more likely to swallow prescribed medications, and 
keep them down, if they use cannabis.

The CAS recommendations call for an overhaul of the federal medical 
cannabis program, the inclusion of medical marijuana users in ongoing 
policy formation dialogue, the protection of medical pot users from 
criminal prosecution, and active dissemination of information to 
combat stigma and to help those who need medical pot to access a 
safe, reliable, and affordable supply.

"We favour providing authorized persons with a variety of legal 
options and projects," reads the CAS report. "Offering only one legal 
source and one strain of cannabis for distribution to authorized 
Canadians may not be a constitutionally adequate alternative..."

Brent Lewandoski, a member of the national steering committee for the 
CAS study and one of the four panellists at a Jun 14 press conference 
in Ottawa to launch the study report, said people have the right to 
choose the therapy best suited to them.

"It's very important that people be aware that people who use 
medicinal cannabis do so to improve their quality of life and to help 
them [get] better and [become] productive people in society," he said.

- -With files from Matt Mills
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman