Canada to sell medical marijuana

By Tom Cohen

Thursday, 10 July 2003

TORONTO - Canada's government will sell marijuana and seeds to sick people and their suppliers to fulfill a court order for it to provide medical pot by Wednesday.
The announcement of the interim measure satisfies an Ontario court order while the federal government appeals the ruling.

Under the program, announced by Health Minister Anne McLellan, eligible patients can buy just over an ounce of dried marijuana for $112, well below street prices, about once a month. Authorized growers can buy packs of 30 seeds once a year for $15.

Health Canada spokeswoman Cindy Cripps-Prawak said the government-grown weed has a THC content of 10 percent, compared with between 3 percent and 18 percent for most street marijuana. THC is the psychoactive chemical in pot.

The Ontario court ruling in January gave the government until Wednesday to broaden access to medical marijuana, saying that current laws made "seriously ill, vulnerable people deal with the criminal underworld to get medicine."

Wednesday's announcement continued Canada's long-running debate on medical marijuana and came as the government prepares to consider legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot.

The medical marijuana issue involves people with chronic or catastrophic illnesses who say they need the drug to ease pain, nausea and other problems.

Canada unveiled plans for medical marijuana in 2000 and began growing a supply in an abandoned mine shaft in Manitoba. New regulations took effect July 30, 2001, that expanded the number of Canadians eligible and allowed people to grow their own or designate someone to grow it for them.

Those regulations also cleared the way for distribution of government-grown pot. Health Canada later announced it needed more tests on the effects of medicinal marijuana and the quality of its pot before making any available.

That brought last year's court ruling ordering the government to offer a legal supply.
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