Activists establish national regulator for pot dispensaries

By Laura Baziuk, Postmedia News June 1, 2011

OTTAWA — Francois Arcand says he doesn’t want gravely ill people to think of medical marijuana as their last hope because of all the red tape that surrounds it.

The 42 year old had to first find a doctor who would help him get a Health Canada license to use marijuana to ease his epilepsy. Then he waited a year for approval.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa man found quicker and more personalized relief at a cannabis dispensary.

“Cannabis should have been my frontline therapy and not a desperate last resort,” Arcand said, adding that Health Canada needs to issue more licences.

Arcand said he supported calls in Ottawa on Tuesday by medical marijuana advocates for the federal government to legalize pot dispensaries, as activists launched a national organization to help regulate the businesses.

“Dispensaries should be legally regulated and recognized as a legitimate health-care service,” said Rade Kovacevic, co-founder of the new Canadian Association of Medical Dispensaries.

“We are asking the government to recognize our experience and to work with us to develop a regulatory framework for medical cannabis.”

The non-profit association aims to oversee the country’s estimated 30 dispensaries, which sell a range of cannabis products and strains to buyers who show a doctor’s note and meet other requirements.

Staff plan to accredit the dispensaries — many of which are currently set up as illegal storefronts — in areas such as patient eligibility, dispensing practices, quality of cannabis and community safety, with a goal of ensuring high standards of care.

Marijuana remains illegal in Canada, but residents suffering from illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy can apply to use pot as supplied by Health Canada’s growers or a licensed individual grower.

Marc-Boris St. Maurice, who founded the association and operates a compassion club in Montreal, said dispensaries provide shorter wait times for registration than Health Canada, as well as one-on-one consultations and marijuana products that don’t have to be smoked.

More doctors are referring patients to cannabis dispensaries over Health Canada, advocate and health-care administrator Rielle Capler added.

A Health Canada spokesman said the ministry is currently considering measures to reform its medical marijuana program and its regulations, but reiterated that it does not license compassion clubs or dispensaries.

“Any changes to the program will balance the need to provide reasonable legal access to this controlled substance with the government’s responsibility to regulate it,” the spokesman said in an email.

Kovacevic, who founded a dispensary in Guelph, Ont., pointed to the half-dozen court rulings, the most recent in Ontario, which have found Health Canada’s medical marijuana program to be unconstitutional.

In April, the Ontario Superior Court struck down two key pieces of legislation that prohibit the possession and production of pot after a constitutional challenge by a medical marijuana user. The judge has suspended the ruling until mid-July so the federal government can make its next move.

Kovacevic said dispensaries have been filling the void in supply more efficiently and cost-effectively, and that the association wants to work with law enforcement, government and health-care groups to legalize the service.

“The Canadian government should not be in the business of selling marijuana. We want to relieve them of this burden,” said Kovacevic. “We have over a decade of experience and actually predate the Health Canada system by five years. We can provide a much better quality service.”

lbaziuk@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/laurabaziuk
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Read more: http://www.canada.com/health/Activists+establish+national+regulator+dispensaries/4869997/story.html#ixzz1UjiAafnf

Canadian medicinal marijuana advocates form national association

By Matthew Burrows, May 31, 2011

A group of medicinal marijuana advocates from across the country says Health Canada’s program is inadequate, makes patients wait too long, provides no education or support resources, and offers only one strain of Indica.

Today (May 31) in Ottawa, they launched the Canadian Association of Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries.

A CAMCD news release issued following the media conference states that the association, which has nine founding directors, has been established to ensure consistently high-quality patient care is available across the country. CAMCD is also creating a certification system for dispensaries as a solution to the Health Canada program they claim has “failed”.

In the same release, CAMCD notes that Health Canada’s medical marijuana program was recently dealt another critical setback in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in April. Seven court cases to date have found the federal program constitutionally inadequate during its decade of operation, CAMCD has claimed.

“Our innovative service delivery model has been successful for 15 years,” Rade Kovacevic, a founding director of CAMCD from the Medical Cannabis Centre of Guelph, stated in the release. “Now is a crucial time to come together to create a nationwide system to ensure the highest standard of care for patients. Together the nine founding directors and advisory board members represent over 20,000 patients who access dispensaries.”

Another founding director is Jeet-Kei Leung, communications coordinator for the B.C. Compassion Club Society. The Commercial Drive-based society is listed alongside other organizations with founding directors at CAMCD: Vancouver Dispensary Society, Vancouver Island Compassion Society in Victoria, Medical Cannabis Centre of Guelph, MedCannAccess in Toronto, Cannabis As Living Medicine in Toronto, Toronto Compassion Centre, Medical Cannabis Access Society in Montreal, and Montreal Compassion Center.

http://www.straight.com/article-395650/vancouver/canadian-medicinal-marijuana-advocates-form-national-association

Création d’un réseau national pour la marijuana médicale

JOHANNA POCOBENE
MÉTRO

Pour la première fois au Canada, un réseau national des dispensaires de cannabis est établi.

L’Association canadienne de dispensaires de cannabis médical, un organisme à but non lucratif, permettra à ces dispensaires d’agir en groupe et de faire face ensemble aux enjeux qui affectent le paysage du cannabis médical.

«L’efficacité de la marijuana médicale n’étant plus à justifier, il fallait maintenant une uniformisation des pratiques de ces établissements», souligne Marc-Boris St-Maurice, directeur du Centre Compassion de Montréal et membre du réseau. Le but de celui-ci est aussi de promouvoir une approche réglementée et intégrée à la communauté afin d’offrir le meilleur niveau de soins aux patients.

Et sur le plan politique, où en est le dialogue avec le gouvernement conservateur? «Nous ne connaissons pas encore les revendications du nouveau gouvernement, en tout cas nous sommes ouverts, nous voulons travailler avec eux», affirme le directeur.

Plus de 20 000 patients souffrant notamment de VIH/SIDA, hépatite, cancer, arthrite, sclérose en plaques, anxiété et dépression sont soignés dans ces dispensaires. D’après le Centre Compassion de Montréal, le cannabis pourrait soulager une variété de symptômes comme les nausées, la perte d’appétit, les douleurs chroniques, les spasmes musculaires et les tensions réduisant la mobilité physique. Le cannabis contribuerait aussi à augmenter le sentiment de bien-être général.

Depuis 15 ans déjà, des dispensaires de cannabis, aussi connus sous le nom de clubs compassion, fournissent de la marijuana médicale, pour répondre aux besoins de Canadiens gravement malades.

http://www.journalmetro.com/linfo/article/876042–creation-d-un-reseau-national-pour-la-marijuana-medicale

Lobby group wants government out of medical marijuana business

by BJ Siekierski

The Canadian government shouldn’t be in the business of selling marijuana, a new non-profit organization calling itself the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

The new association hopes a nation-wide dispensary program will eventually replace the medical marijuana access program currently run by Health Canada. Because to date, it argues, the government-run system has been ineffective.

Courts have also supported this opinion, said CAMCD director Rade Kovacevic.

“Over the last decade, the courts have consistently ruled that the federal government’s medical marijuana program is not meeting patients’ needs,” Kovacevic says. “The most recent case — on April 11 in Ontario Superior Court — once again found the government’s program unconstitutional.”

Dispensaries, he continued, have been filling that void.

The group says that Health Canada’s medical marijuana access program has many inefficiencies including: wait times of up to nine months, as compared to two to 10 days for dispensaries; a 33-page form, as opposed to a one- to eight-page form at dispensaries; and a lack of non-smoking options, such as baked goods, butters, and oils.

The CAMCD statistics show that since Canada’s first dispensary opened in Vancouver in 1997, more than 5,000 doctors have referred more than 20,000 patients to dispensaries. This includes patients with conditions including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, cancer, arthritis, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.

The government-run medical marijuana program has, as of January 10, 2010, served 4,884 patients referred by 2,373 doctors, the group said.

The CAMCD directorate, which also included co-president Marc-Boris St-Maurice and board member Rielle Capler, said it wants to project a professional image that will it to better negotiate a “legal grey zone.”

“We will be inviting input from law enforcement, patient and health-care provider groups, different levels of government, and other stakeholders, to seize this opportunity in regulating medical cannabis dispensaries,” Kovacevic said.

Together, they also stressed the positive economic benefits a switch to dispensary distribution would have in terms of job creation and reduced health-care costs, since it would continue to come at “no cost to taxpayers.”

In terms of approaching political parties, however, spokesperson Adam Greenblatt told iPolitics they don’t want to make it a partisan issue; the goal is to help those in need, not to start an ideological battle.

Throughout the press conference, the group frequently used the word “medication” instead of saying medical marijuana.

The federal government doesn’t sell Prozac or aspirin, St-Maurice said.

“There’s no reason why they should be the ones in charge of distributing this product.”

© 2011 iPolitics Inc.

http://ipolitics.ca/2011/05/31/lobby-group-wants-government-out-of-medical-marijuana-business/

Création d’une association canadienne de dispensaires

MONTRÉAL – Les dispensaires de cannabis médical du Canada, connus aussi sous le nom de Clubs compassion, forment désormais une association nationale et promettent des normes standardisées pour la consommation de marijuana à titre de médicament.

La création de l’Association canadienne de dispensaires de cannabis médical a été annoncée lundi dans une salle de presse du parlement fédéral à Ottawa par les représentants de neuf centres de service urbains (trois à Vancouver, trois Toronto, deux à Montréal et un à Guelph, en Ontario).

«Les dispensaires devraient être réglementés légalement et reconnus comme des services de santé légitimes», a déclaré Marc-Boris St-Maurice, directeur du Centre Compassion Montréal, ouvert depuis 1999.

«Nous voulons libérer le gouvernement de ce fardeau, a poursuivi M. St-Maurice, nos dispensaires sont un modèle viable pour livrer des soins de façon plus économique, offrant une meilleure qualité de médicament, un meilleur appui aux patients, ainsi que la solution à toutes les causes en litige.»

La nouvelle association pancanadienne en faveur du cannabis médical au Canada qualifie de «raté» le programme existant de Santé Canada.

«Depuis 10 ans, explique-t-on, sept causes devant les tribunaux ont démontré les insuffisances constitutionnelles» du programme fédéral.

Selon Rielle Capler, une administratrice en santé et membre du conseil, l’association est comparable à un groupe professionnel qui appuie et réglemente ses membres selon la meilleure pratique de l’industrie.

«Notre association est dédiée à faciliter la transition des dispensaires de cannabis médical vers un service de santé licite et réglementé», a affirmé Mme Capler.

François Arcand, un patient consommateur de cannabis médical a expliqué qu’en 1989, une malformation cérébrale a causé une hémorragie massive dans son cerveau, le laissant notamment sévèrement épileptique.

Il a dit que le cannabis médical lui avait permis de tolérer sa condition et de survivre à des conditions de vie très difficiles depuis son accident cérébral, il y a plus de 20 ans.

«Avec l’assistance d’un dispensaire médical de cannabis, j’ai été capable d’obtenir de la marijuana de haute qualité de variété spécifique dont j’ai besoin pour proprement traiter ma condition», a raconté M. Arcand, ajoutant que, sans l’aide du dispensaire, il aurait dû mettre sa vie en danger pour se procurer du cannabis sur le marché noir.

http://lejournaldemontreal.canoe.ca/journaldemontreal/actualites/national/archives/2011/05/20110531-141401.html?sms_ss=twitter&at_xt=4de596a5225e30d4,0

Medical pot program fails patients: group

By Kristy Kirkup, Sun Media, Parliamentary Bureau

OTTAWA – Health Canada should get out of the medical marijuana business, says a new health group that wants to take over dispensing pot to patients.

The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries says the government’s program has been a bust for the past 10 years. It believes Health Canada has created unnecessary barriers for people who need marijuana for medical reasons, including HIV, cancer, arthritis, and epilepsy.

“The courts have upheld the work of dispensaries, but there isn’t any legislation or regulation to match that,” said Rielle Capler, who sits on the CAMCD advisory board.

The group advocates for compassion clubs, which dispense pot to the sick for a fee.

The clubs, which have been popping up across Canada, operate in a legal grey area. Over the past decade, a number of court cases have dealt with questions about the legitimacy and necessity of medical marijuana cultivators.

Some patients claim different strains of marijuana — which they can only get at compassion clubs — offer a different kind of relief.

“Different strains work for different conditions,” said Rade Kovacevic, who runs the Medical Cannabis Centre in Guelph, Ont.

Canada became the first country to regulate medical marijuana when it passed the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations in 2001. According to Health Canada data released in April, more than 10,000 Canadians are authorized to possess dried marijuana for medical purposes.

Authorized medical marijuana users are able to grow pot themselves, find someone to grow it for them, or they can get it through the mail from Health Canada.

Health Canada is considering measures to reform the medical marijuana program. The government doesn’t license operations like compassion clubs.

In a statement, Health Canada said any changes to the program “will balance the need to provide legal access to this controlled substance with the government’s responsibility to handle it.”

Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @kkirkup

http://www.torontosun.com/2011/05/31/health-canadas-medical-marijuana-program-fails-patients-group