Genetically modified medpot?

Pharmaceutical companies may seize control of Canada's medical marijuana supply.

A source within the Ministry of Health, who wishes to remain anonymous, has provided documents and information to Cannabis Culture, describing how Canadian pot is to be grown for upcoming medical trials. The documents call for 185 kg (408 pounds) of pot to be grown in the first year, and double that amount for the second through fifth years.
The thirty-five page guideline document, with the weighty title, Draft Statement of Work for The Development of a Comprehensive Operation for the Cultivation and Fabrication of Marijuana in Canada, is still open to revisions. It includes proposals for how marijuana should be grown, processed and fabricated. Included in these guidelines is the potential to give a notorious pharmaceutical company exclusive rights for selling seeds to the budding medpot industry.

Mississippi schwag

According to the document, "the acquisition of seed will be performed by Health Canada during the project initiation stage. The prime contractor can choose to provide their own seed so long as it is from a licit source."

Which presents a problem. How many licit seed sources exist? In North America the only licit source is the University of Mississippi. Concerns about the effectiveness of notoriously schwaggy U of M bud prompted Dr Kilby of the Community Research Initiative of Toronto to state that he would prefer clinical marijuana come from another source (see CC#22). It would seem that Health Canada recognized these concerns when it began looking for private contractors to do the job.

Yet will the bud really be any different than that produced by the University of Mississippi? Cannabis Culture's anonymous source within the ministry gave us the scoop.

"Scheduled labs around the country which are already growing marijuana are using seeds from the University of Mississippi," reported the official. "The genetics come from Monsanto."

Health Canada spokesperson Jeff Pender knew of the recent guidelines document that had been released, but denied knowledge of where the seeds will come from.

"Where would a potential grower get the seeds from?," repeated Pender when I asked him this question. "I'm not really sure. I guess? I could find out for you. I imagine growers could order seeds from the US."

Pender eventually suggested that the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which also gets its cannabis from the University of Mississippi, might be a source for contracted growers looking to buy licit seeds. If the unnamed source at the Ministry of Health is correct, all of these seeds would originally have come from Monsanto.

Monsanto's marijuana

The US-based Monsanto corporation became infamous last year when the public discovered that the huge pharmaceutical company was responsible for producing Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, for producing and selling Roundup to be sprayed on South American villages, for experimenting with dangerous genetically modified foods, and ? most recently ? for creating the dreaded "terminator" seed.

Terminator seeds are genetically engineered to produce a plant that will not produce viable seed, meaning that growers would be forced to go back to Monsanto each year to buy more seed stock to replant. Governments and public alike became wary of the concept when it was discovered that the terminator seed could possibly cross the species barrier, possibly spreading infertility among the plant kingdom like a disease.

Cannabis seeds from Monsanto are almost definitely genetically engineered. Genetically engineered plants can be patented, and it is in Monsanto's best interest to hold a patent on any seed they sell. Seed patents ensure that companies like Monsanto can continue to profit from seeds from year to year, as farmers are legally bound to buy patented seeds from the patent holder rather than simply store them from the last year's crop.

Pharmaceutical schwag

Interestingly, low-potency pot of the kind produced by Monsanto seeds at the University of Mississippi is exactly the kind of product the Ministry of Health is asking for from contractors. The guidelines ask specifically for "standardized marijuana cigarettes with THC content of between 4% and 6% and weighing [about] 850 mg."

Which means the cigarettes to be used for clinical trials will be phatties containing over three-quarters of a gram of schwag bud each! These fat joints will deliver about twice the tar per dose as marijuana currently available from experienced growers, which reaches between 8-10% THC.

The Health Canada document seems concerned that smoking can cause harm, and promises to explore other methods soon after the initial trials are run. Yet the product they choose to use is guaranteed to maximize the risks and problems associated with smoking. Could it be that the Ministry of Health is creating its own excuse not to use smoking as a delivery method?

Our anonymous source within the ministry assures us that the government plans to eventually only allow the use of inhalers, similar to asthma inhalers.

"The inhaler gets rid of any small industry that might develop, by regulating the delivery system. The other idea that didn't go through was to develop a seed system that would allow cultivars from across Canada which would then be grandfathered. What this means is that once the cultivated varieties were tested they would be introduced just the same as if they had been genetically modified."

Patented seeds and dose delivery methods could mean complete pharmaceutical control of medicinal cannabis sometime in the near future.

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