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Ottawa OKs medical pot distribution plan

Wed Jul 9 2003

OTTAWA-- Ottawa has approved an interim plan to provide dried marijuana or seeds to Canadians authorized to take the drug for medical purposes.

Cindy Cripps-Prawak

Health Canada spokesperson Cindy Cripps-Prawak made the announcement Wednesday in Ottawa. It's the federal government's response to a ruling by a court in Ontario.

In January, Ontario's Superior Court said Ottawa's access regulations to medical marijuana were unconstitutional because they don't provide a distribution method for the drug. It gave Ottawa six months to come up with a new policy.

The federal government is appealing the Ontario decision. The appeal will be heard at the end of July 2003, said Cripps-Prawak.

Wednesday's announcement is an interim policy pending Ottawa's appeal.

The dried marijuana will cost $5 for a gram, at least half the price it sells for on the street. It will be provided on a two-week or monthly basis to authorized patients who are too ill to grow it themselves.

A bag of 30 marijuana seeds will cost $20 for people licensed to cultivate the drug for medical purposes.

Government-grown pot will have a THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration of 10 per cent, said Cripps-Prawak. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

Health Canada also recommends users not smoke the marijuana, but instead consume it in a tea or in food.

Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan says the government is not convinced of the medicinal benefits of marijuana. That's why Health Canada is supporting clinical trials, set to begin in the fall, she said.

Dominic Cramer, a medical marijuana advocate with the Toronto Compassion Centre, says Ottawa's history of "lies and broken promises" makes him think the clinical trials won't go ahead. He says studies already exist on the benefits of marijuana but the government ignores them.

Medical marijuana user Alison Myrden says she's not impressed by the announcement. Under the new policy, she will spend $450 per week on pot to help her deal with symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), while her disability is $500 per month.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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