HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medicinal Pot Case Wraps Up
Pubdate: Thu, 6 Dec 2007
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2007 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Jered Stuffco, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)


Patients Want to Be Allowed to Choose Grower

TORONTO -- Lawyers for Canadian users of medical marijuana who want
Ottawa to ease restrictions on where they get their pot wrapped up
their case Wednesday by telling a Federal Court judge that
government-approved marijuana, grown by a Flin Flon contractor,
doesn't compare to higher-quality strains available on the street.

Patients ought to be able to pick their own grower, said lawyer Alan
Young, who accused Ottawa of rushing into drafting a program in 2003
that ultimately forced patients to use a substandard product -- a
violation of their constitutional rights.

"When the dust settles, what you're left with is a government simply
decreeing that this is the way you are going to get your medicine,"
Young said.

"Governments don't know how to grow marijuana and don't know much
about marijuana because, for 80 years, they've been trying to convince
us that it's harmful."

But since launching its controversial medicinal marijuana program,
Health Canada has significantly improved the quality of its marijuana
compared with earlier batches, meaning the case against the government
doesn't stand up, said Health Canada lawyer Christopher Leafloor.

The applicants in the case haven't tried the most recent batches of
cannabis grown by contractor Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), which is
based in Flin Flon, Leafloor said.

"Our position is that you can't really take seriously their claim that
the PPS product isn't good enough in terms of strength when they
haven't even tried it."

Leafloor said only one applicant in the case had tried the PPS
product, and that trial was several years ago.

"That was an early version."

A PPS spokesman said in an interview users who buy from the government
are assured of getting a more consistent product than they would on
the street. Leafloor also disagreed with the assertion the government
made an eleventh-hour decision in December 2003 that restricts
patients from choosing their own growers.

"There's actually been a long history here," he said, noting the
government has been dealing with the issue and taking direction from
Canadian courts since July 2000.

Leafloor also said the assertion that some strains of pot are better
for treatment than others is based on user preference instead of
quantifiable data.

"It's not enough for patients to say 'I prefer this so you have to
give it to me.'"

Wednesday's hearing marked the procedural culmination of a
three-and-a-half-year process, which Young hopes will eventually give
experienced cannabis growers the opportunity to supply products
specifically tailored to the needs of medical users.

The court could issue a ruling by the spring, he added.

The case also has implications on the way the government drafts and
implements official policy, said Young, who is also a professor at
York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

Under the current Health Canada guidelines, users of so-called medical
marijuana can either grow their own pot, have someone grow it for them
or buy it from Health Canada. However, growers can only supply
marijuana to one patient at a time. 
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