Volume 92, Issue 80

Thursday, February 18, 1999


Publication notice

Wave assault suspects sign deal

Apology made for election errors

Nervousness surrounds renovation funding

Job opportunities only a click away

Portable home in a box

Marijuana debate rolls into parliamentary hands

Safety an important part of slacking


Caught on campus

Marijuana debate rolls into parliamentary hands

By Lindsay Isaac
Gazette Staff

Smoking up is gaining support among politicians, but for medical purposes only.

A motion was passed in the House of Commons last week which calls for the government to start studying the medicinal benefits of smoking marijuana for people with serious medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and AIDS. The motion was sponsored by Bloc Quebecois member of parliament Bernard Bigras who has been supporting the issue since it was brought to his attention by a constituent last spring.

"The ingredient in marijuana, THC, can give help to people who are suffering and it is time for parliament to address this fact," Bigras said. Bigras is pushing for Health Canada to conduct a three-year research program involving 400 to 600 patients who would smoke marijuana to see if the drug relieves their symptoms.

"I have found overwhelming evidence as to the benefits of marijuana for medical purposes and I have the backing of many people across Canada," Bigras said.

Reform MP Grant Hill, who is also a doctor, said he is concerned with the smoking aspect of consuming THC. "I am convinced that there is a benefit but the secondary consequences are harmful," Hill said.

"Mr. Bigras' compassion is in the right direction, but we need to isolate the effective ingredient in order to give it in the least harmful way," Hill added. "If the Canadian authorities want to do something useful, it would be to do that."

Lynn Harichy, owner of the London Cannabis Compassion Centre, has suffered from multiple sclerosis for the past 20 years and said smoking provides the most effective relief. "My body handles itself better when I smoke marijuana. I am never in pain and I can use my cane without trembling," Harichy said.

Robert McMurtry, dean of medicine and dentistry at Western, said he felt the medical legalization is a good thing. "Marijuana contains unique properties of pain relief, that while hard to measure, do bring relief." McMurtry acknowledged there is a downside as it is traumatic to the body's airways, but added there is a downside to any medication.

Joe Fontana, chair of the federal liberal caucus and London member of parliament, also said he saw no difficulty with the medicinal use of marijuana medicinal. However, he added if marijuana decriminalization was a possible result then he would not be in favour of it.

The motion is to be brought to debate March 3 and may proceed to be voted on in the House of Commons in June.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999