Volume 93, Issue 33

Thursday, October 28, 1999


Industrial hemp not really a demon weed

Marijuana: an activists' mandate

Canada contemplates prescription for pot

Voicing your choice

Canada contemplates prescription for pot

By Becky Somerville
Gazette Staff

Over the course of the past year, the federal government's mandate to regulate marijuana for medicinal purposes has been occupying the minds of government officials, health care professionals and activists alike.

Health Minister Alan Rock's announcement this month, which granted 14 more Canadian patients the right to cultivate and use marijuana for medicinal purposes, is evidence of a positive, pro-active Canadian government, said Walter Tucker, a Hamilton-area marijuana activist. He added that at the same time, however, this initiative has been generating scrutiny concerning the Ministry's motives.

According to Derek Kent, spokesperson for Rock, the legislation exempts patients, upon government approval, from section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which allows them access to marijuana for medical purposes.

"[Medical marijuana] is important because there are many people in this country who are sick and dying and traditional treatments aren't working and they say using marijuana for medicinal purposes helps to alleviate their symptoms," Kent said.

He explained the Ministry of Health announced in June the development of a business plan to discuss a domestic supply of marijuana for those approved patients who do not wish to grow it themselves.

"The government has to make a decision on who will supply medical marijuana," Kent said, adding it has yet to be determined whether the supply will be government-controlled or supplied by a private company.

However, Tucker and co-activist Michael Baldasaro said they are determined to be the sole suppliers of top-grade cannabis for medicinal use to the federal government.

On Oct. 14 Tucker and Baldasaro sent a sample of marijuana to Rock, in the form of seven marijuana cigarettes. However, Tucker said he is waiting to hear from Parliament Hill as to whether or not the marijuana has been received.

Tucker explained he has hundreds of different crops of cannabis growing throughout southern Ontario which help him supply local doctors and patients in the Hamilton-area with medicinal marijuana. "This is not a criminal act – it's an act of kindness."

Kent said he would not comment on the other applicants requesting to supply the marijuana to the government. "We're not at the stage where we're asking for submissions," he said.

Lynn Harichy, a London activist who uses medicinal marijuana to ease the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, said the government legislation is not helping people who have to live with their illnesses, only those patients who are dying.

"The law needs to be changed and I don't think people who provide clean, safe marijuana to people who need it should be criminals," Harichy said. She added people living with afflictions such as cancer, AIDS and spinal cord injuries often request marijuana, but cannot obtain it because it is illegal.

"I haven't had a need or a request to use [marijuana]," said Dori Seccareccia, a palliative care physician at London Health Sciences Centre. "We seem to be able to control the symptoms without needing to use marijuana."

Seccareccia said while she was not opposed to the use of pot to curtail pain in chronically ill patients, there are a lot of other drugs which patients or health care professional can turn to first.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999