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Medical marijuana users forced to black market

Global National

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Global National still photo

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Winnipeg is home to Canada's only legal supply of pot.

It's grown, picked and dried in the bottom of an old Manitoba mine for people like Michael Day.

Thanks to the pot he's the picture of health, but his health card is not helping him much.

"I have a tumor wrapped around the right eye and cancer going up into the brain. I've tried everything and the cannabis seems to work the best"

But recently his supply has been cut off.

He can't pay the 14,000 dollar bill he owes Health Canada, but he doesn't really want what the government grows anyway.

"Its not very good, you can cook with it, which is what I do to manage my cancer."

Patients with no way to pay and questionable quality are just a few of the problems plaguing what's Canada's Medicial Marijuana access program.

The program came about as a court order, not an act of compassion from the government and what we're seeing is the fallout of that.

Only 1,300 Canadians are registered with the program that has cost tax payers $23 million to set up and more patients are relying on compassion clubs than the government.

Phillipe Lucas is one of those that has set up a compassion club.

"Compassion clubs are serving more people than Health Canada, we're creating a better supply than Health Canada. And we're doing more legitimate research than Health Canada and we're doing all of this at no cost to the tax payer."

Global National has learned through a federal access to information request that one-third of cannabis purchased by 2004 was returned.

Lucas says it's simply because it's poor quality.

While Valerie Lasher of the Medical Marijuana Access program disagrees.

"The quality is second to none, it's tested it's consistent."

In fact, his compassion club has been growing it's own and he says that this is how it compares to what Health Canada is providing that it's routinely of lower potency than what's labelled on package.

"What they've done is taken these aids patients, these cancer patients these really sick and suffering folks back to the black market."

Health Canada say it is taking another look at the program, potentially making pot available through the pharmacy, which for now is a last resort for their marijuana therapy.

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