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Patients seek relief on price of medical pot

By Hempology | July 10, 2003

From the Globe and Mail, July 10th, 2003

By Brian Laghi, Ottawa

Last September, Russell Barth sent a friend out with $300 to buy him a bag of marijuana
that he hoped would help alleviate the pain he suffers from fibromyalgia.

A few hours later, his buddy called back to tellh im the deal wasn’t going to happen, and
that the money had been stolen.

Mr. Barth, who has the right to smoke pot to alleviate symptoms of his disease, thought
he would have been pleased yesterday when the federal govenrment established a system
so many medical users wouldn’t have to buy cannabis from unreliable connections.

But the 34-year-old single Ottawa man was disappointed that the cannabis he needs would
cost him about $20 a day. He can’t afford it and will probably continue to rely on morphine,
codeine and other standard drugs to deal with his pain.

“This is not going to help me,” Mr. Barth said. “I’m looking at $20 to $25 a day and I don’t
have that.”

Some people who need the drug saw the federal government’s plan to begin supplying
authorized patients with marijuana and seeds as a positive first step. But many were
disappointed with the cost and the fact that the plan is still an interim one that
could be cancelled should Ottawa win a court case that allows it to end the program.

The price of the drug will be $5 a gram and the government has not established how
patients will pay.

Philippe Lucas, a Victoria man who has the legal right to consume the drug, said he
may try the federal supply, but urged the government to reduce the price because it will put
medical marijuana out of the reach of many.

Mr. Lucas contracted hepatitis C in the tainted-blood scandal of the 1980s. He said the
pot he grows for personal use prevents nausea attributed to his condition.
He was not confident that Ottawa would continue with the plan.

“We can hardly take it on good faith knowing that they’re appealing this decision,” he
said. “This whole program could be overturned.”

Marco Renda said most people who have he right to use the drug probably won’t use the
federal supply.

“If you access their program and they shut it down, then what happens?” asked Mr. Renda,
who also has hepatits C and was part of the January court case that forced the federal
government to make the supply available.

A federal offical said yesterday that the govenrment has no intention of dropping the price.
The official said the price was fair, and that Canadians are already obliged to pay for
drugs that are federally authorized.

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