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In the city
House of Commons votes pro pot
By Aaron Wherry
Government officials across North America have been getting high on thoughts of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.
On May 25, the House of Commons approved, by a vote of 204-29, a motion which encouraged the federal government to take immediate steps to legalize the medical use of marijuana.
Joe Fontana, Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament for London East, voted in favour of the motion and said parliament must look closely at the issue of medical marijuana to ensure the proper controls and regulations are put in place.
"There's no doubt we need to look at this with continued research to work out all the details," he said. "From a parliamentary standpoint, the movement for research has already been initiated."
The vote follows a promise made by the Minister of Health, Allan Rock, in March that the government would move forward with clinical trials by the end of June.
The recent vote does not alter or speed up the Minister's plans, said Derek Kent, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health. He added they are still on schedule for clinical trials to begin by the end of the month.
Elinor Caplan, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health, said those who require the drug may apply to receive special access under an exemption provided by the Controlled Substances Act.
However, Jim Wakeford, a social activist who suffers from AIDS and one of the first to benefit from the exemption, said he is not entirely pleased with the government's actions. "It is a very important step in the right direction but it [still] does not allow full access."
Wakeford explained he may cultivate and smoke his own marijuana but the exemption does not protect his caregivers who, at times, are also in possession of marijuana so they can administer it to him.
Wakeford said two of his caregivers have already been arrested and had charges of marijuana possession successfully pressed against them. He added in order for clinical trials to be successful, Canadian marijuana growers must be involved and other changes must be made to the entire process. "For a politician, Allan Rock is a stand up guy for doing this. But if you have the wrong people doing the wrong studies, you're going to get the wrong results."
Richard Garlick, director of communications for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, said the centre is waiting for results from the clinical trials before they release an official policy on the use of medical marijuana.
"Cannabis is a complex substance composed of around 60 properties and determining exactly what properties of it can be used for medical purposes will be difficult," he said.
Lynn Harichy, president of the London Cannabis Compassion Centre and a sufferer of multiple sclerosis, said she is hopeful the recent vote will further increase the possibility of legal medicinal marijuana.
Harichy added smoking marijuana stops her from shaking and also allows her to walk. "Eight days after I stop smoking marijuana, I can barely walk I fall and crash into the walls.
"I have explained my position and why I use marijuana to many police officers and many of them agree with me and have also turned a blind eye to me," Harichy added.
Const. Tracey Frizell, media relations officer for the London Police Department, said action from the city police will depend on future rulings. "We are proceeding with business as usual and then letting the courts decide."