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Medical pot offer horrifies MD

By Hempology | July 10, 2003

BCMA head decries federal marijuana shipments to doctors

From the Times Colonist, July 10, 2003

by Pamela Fayerman and Mark Kennedy (CanWest News Service)

The federal government will imeddiately begin to ship medical marijuana to
physicians who prescribe pot tot heir patients – a move the head of the BC
Medical Association calls “horrifying and mind-boggling.”

“It boggles the mind. It sounds like a scheme thought up by a beaurocrat trying
to make doctors’ lives more difficult,” BCMA president Dr. John Turner said

“I mean what would a doctor do with 10 totes of marijuana in the office cupboard?
You would have to hope nobody breaks into your office. I think most doctors would
be absolutely horrified by this.”

Not only is the federal government willing to ship directly to doctors but it
will do so at bargain-basement prices. Hundreds of chronically ill patients who
currently qualify for “medical marijuana” under Health Canada’s program had better
rush their order through, because within weeks, the government may revoke its
official drug supplier status and resume its police of keeping its stash -
grown at an old mine site in Flin Flon, Man. – under lock and key.

The marijuana is being offered to Canadians at $5 a gram, enough for about
one or two joints, compared to the black market street value prices of $10
to $25 a gram. It will be regularly distributed by courier to a patient’s doctor
in 30-gram bags and be limited to the amount that the physician says is required
to treat the condition. As well, the government will sell marijuana seeds – $20
for a packet of 30 – to sick Canadians to grow their own.

Doctors: Security concerns

Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan, who announced the plan Wednesday, made it
clear she is lukewarm about the new system. “Keep in mind that it was never the
intention for us to supply the product,” she told reporters.

She said the government wants to be convinced first oft he medical benefits of
marijuana, but its hand was forced by a court ruling earlier this year that
essentially required it to meet a deadline to become a drug supplier – at least for

Turner said he has no idea how many doctors in B.C. prescribe marijuana for pain

Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Dana Hanson said the medical profession
believes there should be more scientific proof before medical marijuana is used
as a treatment.

Hilary Black, founder of the B.C. Compassion Club, which has been supplying pot
to the needy for several years, believes the federal decision is “really just a
smokescreen” that Ottawa set up to “look like” it was complying with court
decisions, but knowing full well that few doctors across the country would get
involved in such a plan.

“Doctors are being told by the CMA (and regulatory bodies) not to put themselves
in these positions and I understand why, because they really don’t have training
in herbal medicine,” she said.

Black said of the 8,000 doctors in the province, about 200 have signed the forms
the club requires to distribute pot to users who buy it from the non-profit club
for $8 to $14 a gram. Poor customers can get one or two grams free each week. There
are currently nearly 2,500 compassion club members. Black said she doesn’t anticipate
the number will go down just because of the Ottawa decision.

She said she understand why doctors would have concerns about security. “We’ve had
break-ins in the past, although not for a few years because we have a great alarm
system and this place is built up like a fortress now.”

The long-awaiated measure was unveiled after years of promises by the government
to amend its policies on medical marijuana. But the details of the plan, and the
fact that McLellan proceeded with it reluctantly, left critics fuming.

Advocates of more liberalized marijuana policies complained it will do little to
ease the suffering of patients and may evne make it more difficult for them to
obtain pot. NDP MP Libby Davis called McLellan’s plan a “shabby” response to the
judicial ruling. And Senator Pierra Claude Nolin, who also supports freer access to
the drug, said of the plan: “It’s bad news. It’s temporary. What’s the next step?
We don’t know.”

Canadian Alliance MP Rob Merrifield, whose party opposes medical marijuana until
validated by studies that say it is an effective treatment, said instad of
following the court’s dictum, he said, the government should be tabling legislation
for parlimentarians to decide the appropriate police.

The government stressed Wednesday that its new plan is only an “interim policy.”

Indeed, Ottawa would not have become a drug supplier for the sick if its hand were
not forced by a court decision in January in which Ontario Superior Court Justice
Sidney Lederman blasted the government for inadequate regulations on how to
distribute medical marijuana. He ruled it was unconstitutional that sick people
who qualify for the medical marijuana exemption must turn to illegal means to buy
it off the street because Health Canada won’t supply it to them.

The regulations allow certain patients with chronic or terminal illnesses to apply
to Health Canada for permission to use marijuana. Their applications must be signed
by a doctor. So far, 1,145 people ahve applied and 582 have qualified. They are
allowed to grow marijuana on their own or have another approved grower do it for

When then-health minister Allan Rock launched the program two years ago, he made it
clear that sick people could also buy it from the government.

But when McLellan replaced him in January 2002, she said the Flin Flon crop would
only be supplied to people in clinical research trials to determine if it was
true that pot helps sick people. Those trials will proceed in Canada this fall.

Lederman gave the government six months – which ended Wednesday – to come up
with new regulations. The government appealed that ruling, but the hearing isn’t
until July 29 and 30. Federal officials repeatedly refused to say if they will stop
supplying medical marijuana if the government wins its appeal.

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