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