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It’s expensive to buy from the government and it is not that great

By Hempology | November 6, 2007

Daily Gleaner, NK
01 Nov 2007
Michael Staples


Rocky Paul has been using medical marijuana to control pain and other discomforts for the last seven years.

The St.  Mary’s First Nation resident would like to see the rules eased up a bit so that those who need the drug can get it more easily.

Paul said as many as 30 pages of documents have to be filled out once a year by patients and their doctors in order to continue to qualify for the licence.

“What marijuana does is it helps me through the day,” he said.  “I smoke maybe a couple of joints a day; I really need it.”

Health Canada made the drug available since July 2001.  That’s when it implemented the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations.

Under the stringent rules, people apply to Health Canada to possess medical marijuana under one of the following three categories: terminal illness, with a prognosis of fewer than 12 months to live; specific symptoms, such as severe pain; and those with symptoms from another serious medical condition not covered in the first two categories.

In December 2000, Health Canada contracted Prairie Plant Systems Inc.  to cultivate and produce a safe, standardized, homogenous supply of marijuana.  Applicants are also allowed to grow their own through a personal-use production licence or apply to have someone grow for them with a designated-person production licence.

Paul said he prefers to get his pot from a regular grower and sidesteps the government.

“It’s expensive to buy from the government and it is not that great.”

Paul said he needs the drug to help him get through the day and compassion societies, which provide safe, accessible cannabis to patients with otherwise debilitating conditions, are gaining in popularity because they are easier to deal with.

Police prefer to tolerate the activities of such operations, as opposed to charging those who run them.

There are no such operations in the Maritimes, but about 10 nationwide.

The Vancouver Island Compassion Society is one of the better-known ones in Canada, supplying the drug to 710 patients.

Philippe Lucas, its founder and director, is also a medical user of the drug.

While agreeing that government regulations are onerous, he said organizations such as his are gaining in popularity because they offer better service.

Lucas said a user can purchase from a dealer and not be charged criminally, but the same doesn’t apply for the dealer if caught.

“There’s no legal protection for the work we do,” he said.

Although the figure couldn’t be confirmed through Health Canada, Lucas said almost 1,800 people are signed up for the government licence.

Officials at Health Canada were asked for comment on the medical marijuana program but didn’t reply.

As for the marijuana eradication program carried out by police forces across the country during the fall, Lucas said all it does is make the black market more profitable and justifies the purchase of helicopters and equipment for the police and the army.

“Frankly, it is a waste of time and resources,” Lucas said.  “To me, this is a very poor way to address the health concerns of Canadians right now.  All of our police budgets are limited and every police minute that is spent chopping down a plant in the middle of the woods is a minute that can’t be spent attacking violent or predatory crime.”

Lucas said cannabis should be controlled and regulated much in the same way alcohol is regulated.

“I think the black market is a poor way to control access — particularly for those vulnerable populations.  What we’re doing right now in not taxing or regulating this product is surrendering all control of it to the black market.”

Police say the eradication program keeps unwanted drugs off the streets.

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