Pubdate: Wed, 18 Sep 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Brian Laghi
ROCK PLANNED TO RELEASE POT, LETTER SAYS
By Halting Plan, Ottawa Acted In Bad Faith, Advocates For Medical Marijuana Tell Court
OTTAWA -- Court documents show that Allan Rock was poised to distribute medicinal marijuana just as he was replaced by Anne McLellan as Health Minister, say lawyers who are suing the government for acting in bad faith. The suggestion is included in a draft letter written for Mr. Rock by assistant deputy minister of health Dann Michols in November and filed with the Ontario Superior Court in connection with the suit. The letter, which was not sent, was to be distributed to hundreds of ill people who are qualified to possess the drug for medicinal purposes. "Initial supplies are expected to be available for distribution early in 2002," says the letter, which is included in the court records. "Although final distribution plans are not yet available, you may be assured that Health Canada is currently working to develop the distribution mechanisms that would permit you to receive this marijuana." A group of advocates for medicinal marijuana is suing the government, saying it changed plans for wide distribution in midstream by making the marijuana available only to those participating in clinical trials.
The group argues that the government has acted in bad faith, and it wants a federal crop of marijuana released for use by patients who are exempt from prosecution for using the drug. The advocates want the court to order the government to reverse its decision not to distribute the marijuana. Alan Young, a lawyer representing the group, said the delay in distributing the drug runs counter to Mr. Rock's pledge of expeditious delivery, and the letter from the department proves it. "We have, on record, a draft letter that he was going to send to authorized Canadians indicating that once the mechanisms of distribution were established, they would be receiving medicine in short order," Mr. Young said. The two sides are in court tomorrow and Friday. The court case underlines how Ms. McLellan and Mr. Rock differ on their interpretation of the program's goals.
Mr. Rock maintains that he had always intended to distribute the cannabis to people who are exempt from criminal sanction while conducting clinical trials.
Ms. McLellan has said the government has agreed only to conduct clinical trials. The draft letter was written after police charged a man with trafficking in marijuana, despite his arguments that he was providing it to ill people.
In an accompanying memo, Mr. Michols states that the draft letter would assure exempt Canadians that marijuana would be made available, provided those who receive it agree to provide information for monitoring and research purposes. In an affidavit filed by the government, a Health Canada official said the marijuana produced by Prairie Plant Systems was intended for research purposes only. Cindy Cripps-Prawak also said in her June 27 statement that the cannabis did not meet regulatory standards and providing itto people outside clinical trials could expose them to health risks, she said. In a subsequent cross-examination on her affidavit by Mr. Young, Ms. Cripps-Prawak said the government never considered distribution of marijuana outside of clinical trials. " . . . I don't believe it has ever been the intent of this particular department or this initiative to make marijuana freely available to those exempted Canadians without the context of some sort of monitoring and research context," Ms. Prawak says in a transcript of the proceeding.