Dutch Company Eyes Medical Marijuana Market in Canada

A Dutch company that wants to supply marijuana for Canada’s medical pot users has some advice for the federal government – offer users a variety of weed that would give them anything from a relaxing sedative to a higher-concentration kick.

Bedrocan B.V. has been producing three types of medical pot, with different amounts of such active components as THC, for the government of the Netherlands for six years now. The company is contemplating bidding for a similar contract with Canada, where the government drug supply has been criticized by users as weak and of poor quality.

“Offering more varieties is the first thing,” Bedrocan director Tjalling Erkelens said this week from Veendam.

“I think that’s very important to patients, that they have this possibility to choose different varieties.”

Bedrocan’s most potent, and most popular, variety contains 18 per cent THC – much higher than Canada’s 12.5 per cent. It’s the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana that has been shown to reduce nausea and increase appetite in cancer and AIDS patients. It has also been shown to reduce pain in people with such diseases as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

Another Bedrocan variety has very little THC but has more cannabidiol (CBD), which is not intoxicating. It acts as a sedative.

“In Europe, many medical doctors are more interested in the CBD part,” Erkelens said.

The call for a variety of medical pot has already come from within Canada’s medical cannabis community.

“Different strains have different effects on different symptoms, said Philippe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which supplies several strains of cannabis to about 900 people.

“The same way we have not just one type of antidepressant, but a number of different antidepressants …. we need to recognize that the different chemical constituents of individual cannabis strains have different effects.”

The federal government currently gets its medical pot from an old mine in Flin Flon, Man., run by Prairie Plant Systems Inc. The company is required to follow a strict set of conditions and use one strain only.

“It’s a very tight, specific product that’s highly tested … it has to be highly consistent,” company president Brent Zettl said from Saskatoon.

The federal supply is so unpopular that only about 20 per cent of Canadians who are allowed to use medical pot rely on it. Others grow their own under federal licence. Many also buy on the black market or share with friends, risking fines or jail time.

The federal near-monopoly was dealt a setback by the Federal Court of Appeal last year, which upheld a lower court ruling that said it was unfair to limit medical pot growers to supplying only one user each.

The federal government has extended a contract with Prairie Plant Systems to 2011. In the meantime, it has also called for contract bids from other potential suppliers. Bedrocan is contemplating submitting a bid but is asking the government for more details, including the length of any contract.

“I’m waiting for more information at this moment, and we’ll see what we do,” Erkelens said.

– Article from The Canadian Press.