Recent Articles

Recent Comments

« | Main | »

Canada’s changing pot rules becoming lost in the haze

By Hempology | July 12, 2003

From the Times Colonist, July 12th, 2003

By Jack Knox

Why is Ottawa spending millions to grow dope at the bottom of a Manitoba mine
shaft when it’s paying Vancouver Island Mounties to rip up and burn tonnes of
the same product?

What happens to medical marijuana clubs now that Cheech and Chong have moved
into the prime minister’s office?

And is our federal government the only organization that could lose money growing

Just some of the questions to arise now that Health Canada has, ever so
reluctantly, come up with a court-ordered plan for distributing marijuana to
sick people.

This goes back to January, when an Ontario court ruled that if Ottawa was going
to allow medical marijuana, it had to provide a legal means for licensed users to
get their drugs. The judge gave Health Canada six months to come up with a
distribution system. An appeal of that decision is to be heard July 29 but in the
meantime, the six months is up. so Ottawa has come up with a plan: It will sell
sick people 30 seeds for $20, or 30-gram bags of marijuana for $150.

The government grass will come from Flin Flon, Man., where it is being grown in
an abandoned mine by Prarie Plant Systems.

The government announced in 2000 that it would grow dope for research purposes,
but three years and several million dollars later, the only clinical trial
underway is a McGill University study of the effect of smoked marijuana on
neuropathic pain.

Meanwhile, vancouver Island police are pulling up plants like chickweed. With
little hope of chasing down most of the growers whose pot pops up on Crown land.

The stuff is everywhere. It’s worse than zucchini. Parksville-based RCMP alone tore
out about 1,100 plants in a half-dozen locations last week.

So why is the governmeny paying millions to grow marijuana in Manitoba when it has
all the free stuff it needs right here?

Quality control, says Health Canada’s Jirina Vlk. “It’s a research-grade,
standardized product.” Can’t do scientific experiments if the potency of the
pot is all over the map. The mine-shaft marijuana has a steady THC content of
10 per cent.

Too weak, says Ted Smith, founder of Victoria’s Cannabis Buyers Club, which sells
marijuana to those who can provide a doctor’s diagnosis of illness. Government dope
would leave smokers hacking and coughing.

“We wouldn’t even sell that at our club,” says Smith. “Our members don’t want to
smoke a lot of pot. They don’t want to smoke three or four grams to get out of

The Victoria club charges $25 for 3.5 grams of pot with a THC content Smith
estimates at 12 to 14 per cent.

“I would love for the government to provide better, less expensive cannabis,”
says Smith. “We would fold.”

In the meantime, the club’s not going anywhere, at least for now.

This is where it gets weird (or weirder). The government wants doctors to be
distributors, but the docs are balking. (Most of them don’t even have tattoos or
pit bulls, for goodness sake.) None had applied for a Health Canada dealers’
permit as of Friday.

Meanwhile, medical-marijuana clubs have been selling dope with a degree of
impunity because of the murkiness of the law, partiularly since that Ontario

they have been able to claim they provide the access to marijuana denied by
Ottawa. Smith says Ottawa’s establishment of a distribution system validates
the clubs’ activities. But the authorities may see things differently now that
there is a government-sanctioned alternative.

And it has to be noted only 582 Canadians have been authorized to use marijuana
for medicinal purposes. They fall into three categories: people with less than
a year to live; patients enduring pain and certain other symptoms associated with
a group of specific conditions – cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord
inujuries, epilepsy and severe arthritis; people with other serious illnesses
where conventional treatments have failed.

Medical-marijuana groups have looser rules. The Victoria club alone has 1,200
names on file.

Health Minister Anne McLellan has hinted strongly that Ottawa will get out of
the dope-dealing business if it wins the appeal of the court ruling that forced
access to medical marijuana. Indeed, she is pretty skeptical of the very idea
of prescription pot, saying she has yet to see scientific proof that it does any
good at all.

After all this time, money and controversy, it could all still go up in smoke.

Topics: Articles | Comments Off

Comments are closed.