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First Clinical Pot Trial To Use U.S. Stash

By Hempology | October 10, 2002

From the Globe And Mail, October 10th, 2002

By Brian Laghi

Canada’s first clinical study on the use of medicinal marijuana will use cannabis grown in the United States while a large, Canadian-grown stash of the drug sits on ice.

The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse has agreed to supply the drug for a Toronto-based trial, even though that country’s drug czar disapproves of the program.

Meanwhile, about 200 kilograms of cannabis grown with Ottawa’s sanction in an abandoned Manitoba mine sits in storage and will not be used on patients, Health Canada says.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Alan Young, a Toronto lawyer who is fighting the federal government in court, arguing that regulations controlling the use of medical marijuana violate constitutional rights.

He wants the Canadian-grown drug, created as part of a $5.7-million, five-year federal contract by Prairie Plant Systems, released for domestic use.

“It really begs the question why they’ve awarded this contract in the first place.”

The clinical study will be conducted by the Community Research Initiative of Toronto in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital and the Canadian HIV Trials Network.

A spokesman for the community research organization, Derek Thaczuk, said it inquired about using the Canadian cannabis, but was told by Health Canada that the strains were not adequate.

Mr. Thaczuk said the trial, expected to start within two weeks, will include 32 patients with HIV infection. It is intended to look at whether the drug can stimulate appetite and weight gain in the patients, and will take place over a six-month period.

Mr. Thaczuk said the group did not want to wait for the Canadian cannabis because it has been working for two years to get the project off the ground. The U.S. institute was able to provide the drug in four different dosage strengths — a requirement for the study — while the quality of the Canadian drug was not known.

The director of the U.S. national drug policy, John Walters, has spoken out strongly against the medicinal marijuana program and decriminalizing the drug.

Health Canada spokesman Andrew Swift said the drug that has already been grown in Flin Flon, Man., will not be used on patients, although it may be used in studies of second-hand marijuana smoke.

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