HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Island Pot Could Be Canada's Supply
Pubdate: Fri, 19 Sep 2008
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Times Colonist
Author: Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Vancouver Island Compassion Society)


Cowichan Growers Apply for Contract to Be Major Supplier of Medical Marijuana

Marijuana grown on Vancouver Island could soon be offering pain 
relief and other benefits to medical patients across Canada.

Horticulturist Eric Nash and his partner Wendy Little operate Island 
Harvest in the Cowichan Valley, which they say is Canada's first and 
only production facility of certified organic medical marijuana.

Their operation is licensed and approved by Health Canada, and they 
have been supplying two patients with marijuana who are registered 
with the Health Canada program authorizing use of the drug for 
certain medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord 
disease and cancer.

Now they are applying for a contract to be a major supplier of 
marijuana for some of the 2,500 people across the country who are 
enrolled in the Health Canada program.

There are 1,700 people in Canada who can legally cultivate or produce 
marijuana for medical purposes. Some are allowed to grow their own, 
while others can have a designated grower do it for them.

The seven-year contract could be a profitable deal for Nash and 
Little. While the legal cultivation of marijuana isn't as lucrative 
as doing it through the black market, it doesn't have the risks of 
going to jail.

Still, the money isn't bad. The previous government contractor 
parlayed an initial $5,750,000 deal into $10 million through 
extensions to the contract.

The bids on this new contract close on Sept. 29, and it's expected to 
take the government months to make a decision.

Phillippe Lucas, director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, 
which distributes marijuana to 830 people in Greater Victoria, says 
opinions are shifting on marijuana use across the country, citing 
studies that show 65 per cent of Canadians support recreational use 
while 85 per cent support medical use of marijuana.

The medical benefits of marijuana are too numerous to ignore, Nash 
said, but difficulties arise when doctors refuse to sign the complex 
paperwork needed to get Health Canada approval.

"The main body of people who contact us are those who are using it 
for a severe medical issue such as spinal cord injury, cancer, 
HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and their doctor won't sign the forms 
for legal use," he said.

"These people, because they can't get their doctor to sign, there's 
nothing they can do."

It's frustrating for Nash and Little not being able to help these 
people, he said. "They fall between the cracks, getting stuck simply 
because a doctor won't fill out a government form for them to have 
legal access for a credible medical purpose."

It's difficult for those who need it to get marijuana legally, Lucas 
said. "Through Health Canada the program is growing through tiny 
increments," he said yesterday.

And with marijuana use legal for some people in Canada and not for 
others, it creates a murky situation that Nash would like to see clarified.

He'd like to see a regulatory framework, at least, to sort out the 
various sources that produce and distribute marijuana.

Lucas was part of a constitutional challenge launched in 2004 that is 
expected to culminate in a decision in November. "If we're 
successful, we'll have eased access for Canadians to benefit from the 
legal protections offered though our federal system," he said.

"You have compassion clubs all across Canada in all the major cities 
distributing to thousands of Canadians for medical use," said Nash.

"You've got the government selling to a small percentage who can jump 
through the hoops to get into the program."

There's a definite social stigma attached to the use of marijuana, he 
said, "which is unfortunate because it is such a useful medicine for 
so many different purposes. The medical field is beginning to 
understand the huge significance and role cannabis can play in many 
medical issues." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake