Medical pot seems unstoppable in Canada. Public support is at an all-time high, the Minister of Health has given two Canadians the right to legally cultivate and use, and the Canadian marijuana industry is gearing up to produce a supply for government testing.
Recently, a Decima poll found that 78% of Canadians are in favour of legalizing medicinal marijuana, while only 18% oppose it. With figures like these making the headlines this summer, the Minister of Health probably felt confident floating the innuendo that he has smoked marijuana himself.
“As former attorney general of Canada, I am keenly aware of the right against self incrimination in this country,” said Rock. “I fully intend to invoke that right. But one thing I can be very clear about. I never smoked marijuana? for medicinal purposes.”
Publicly, Rock is claiming the credit for the decision to move forward on medicinal marijuana. But in the court rooms, various movers and shakers have been whipping the tired horse of prohibition to the glue factory.
Among these is Ontario social activist Jim Wakeford, who lives with AIDS. Wakeford is one of Canada’s three legal medical marijuana users. Wakeford is permitted to grow and use medicinal marijuana through a personal “Section 56” exemption granted by the Minister of Health. Wakeford spent a year asking for permission, then filed a civil action against the feds in February of 1998, asking for safe, clean, affordable marijuana for medical purposes and for protection from criminal sanction for his caregivers.
“On May 10 Justice LaForme granted me the interim right to use and cultivate. A month later, on June 9, the Federal Government granted myself and Jean-Charles Pariseau exemptions, under Section 56, to use and cultivate.”
Pariseau, also a sufferer of AIDS, received widespread media coverage in March of this year when his medical marijuana supplier was shut down in a police raid. This illustrates one of the unresolved issues with the Section 56 exemption. The minister has made it legal for Pariseau and Wakeford to cultivate and use, but not to buy from another source. Yet how can people in ill health like Wakeford and Pariseau be expected to produce all their own marijuana? How are Wakeford and Pariseau supposed to acquire seeds or clones to start their own gardens? What if Wakeford and Pariseau’s caregivers are caught bringing them marijuana? Unless these issues are dealt with, says Wakeford, he is taking his case back to court. Wakeford sees other problematic issues with his exemption as well.
“One of the conditions of my exemption is that it ends next June,” says Wakeford. “I plant in May for god’s sake! It is disrespectful to a farmer. It is my position that unless these problems are resolved in an expeditious and satisfactory manner, that I will be going back to court.”
The third Canadian allowed to grow and use medicinal marijuana is Terry Parker, who in 1987 won the right to use marijuana to control his severe epilepsy. In 1997 Parker was nevertheless charged with cultivation, and the judge found him not guilty by reason of medical necessity.
Exemptions before prosecution
According to Wakeford, at least 20 more applications for Section 56 exemptions for legal medical marijuana sit on the Minister of Health’s desk today. These other applicants, are eager to have the minister consider their exemptions. Among them is Eric Angst, a medical marijuana user from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, whose garden was raided in December of 1997.
“I have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalga,” relates Angst. “At times I am very much like an MS patient but they won’t send me to get a CAT scan or anything. I get muscle spasms. it’s pretty rough.”
On June 21, Angst’s case was postponed until December 4, so that he could make a Section 56 application to the minister of health. The outcome of his case depends upon the minister’s prompt reply.
Canada buying US pot?
Much speculation abounds concerning where the government will get a legal supply of marijuana for clinical trials due to begin this fall. Whoever gets the contract will be granted the right to legally produce high-quality buds without fear of prosecution. Rock is considering three options: getting marijuana from a government plantation, getting it from a private Canadian operation, and importing it from the US or England.
In April, a source within the Ministry of Health, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the Health Minister had considered farming the job out to Monsanto, the infamous multinational pharmaceutical company responsible for agent orange and the genetically modified “terminator seeds.” In the beginning of June, the popular press circulated unconfirmed rumours that the Minister was planning on buying cannabis from the US University of Mississippi, which already grows marijuana for clinical trials.
On June 9, however, Rock denied rumours that he was going to the University of Mississippi, and publicly stressed that he would prefer it if the herb was grown in Canada.
“I want a Canadian source,” said Rock. “We’re going to be putting the job out for tender to find someone who can grow us a reliable, consistent quality for research purposes. Once we do that, we’ll go out to tender and we’ll receive bids. I hope that by the fall we’ll have somebody that we can identify as a source.”
Since June, Rock’s department has been in contact with England’s GW Pharmaceuticals, which has been growing legal medical pot for about a year now, and are producing a smokeless liquid-THC inhaler that delivers mini-doses of the substance. According to GW spokesperson Mark Rogerson, medical marijuana users don’t need to inhale enough THC to get high in order to enjoy its medical benefits. Rock is considering producing a similar product here in Canada.
Among those Canadian companies competing for Health Canada contracts to grow medbud is a company associated with Brian Taylor, Mayor of Grand Forks, BC.
Brown Bear Medicinals currently produces a medicinal tea made from industrial hemp leaves, and they’re also bidding on contracts with both the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and Health Canada, to grow marijuana for clinical trials.
“NIDA is asking for all different levels of pot,” says Taylor. “Everything from placebo smoke to stronger stuff, with a heavy influence on controlling CBN, CBD and THC.”
Taylor has been networking successfully with other municipalities to create a medical-marijuana industry structure that would keep profits from sales of the herb in local communities. Founding members of Brown Bear Medicinals, Paul Dimitoff and Brian Taylor, along with Taylor’s daughter, Teresa, have also formed a new organization, the Canadian Cannabis Coalition (CCC).
According to CCC literature, “The Canadian Cannabis Coalition is dedicated to facilitating a safe, accessible, supply of therapeutic cannabis through research, education and advocacy.” The CCC has already attracted the attention of medical marijuana clubs across Canada, who have begun joining the organization in earnest.
With the government and the cannabis industry reaching out to one another, it seems likely that Canada’s oppression of the country’s sick and dying will soon end.
? Brown Bear Medicinals: tel (250) 442-5166; fax (250) 442-5167; email [email protected]; web