Medical Marijuana

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New Mexico Medical Marijuana Update -- Richardson Says Full Steam Ahead Despite Attorney General's "Prank"

Late Thursday night we reported in the Chronicle that New Mexico's Dept. of Health had balked at supplying medical marijuana to patients following a warning from state Attorney General Gary King that he wouldn't defend state workers if the feds prosecuted them. Gov. Richardson, who is running for president in the Democratic primary, has ordered the Health Dept. to comply with the law, and has urged President Bush to stop the medical marijuana prosecutions. I'm not surprised by Richardson's stance, given how hard he fought to rescue the bill last spring when its demise had already been pronounced. Looking at the text of the law, I really have to say I think King is full of it. The law does not tell the Health Dept. to have its own employees grow or distribute marijuana; it tells the department to license people to grow it. Then those licensees will be taking their chances with the feds, for their own individual reasons. But that's not the same thing as state employees being subject to federal prosecution themselves. There have certainly been federal raids of medical marijuana providers in states that have licensed them, but not of the state agencies who have issued them licenses to protect them from state prosecution. Good for Bill Richardson, shame on Gary King, did he really think he could put that one over?
Santa Fe, NM
United States

Medical Marijuana: A Push Gets Underway in Kansas

While state medical marijuana laws are in place along both coasts, not a single state from the Great Plains to the Appalachian Mountains has passed such a law. A voter initiative last year in South Dakota was narrowly defeated, and while legislative efforts in some Midwestern states, notably Illinois and Minnesota, have progressed, none have made it to a governor's desk. For medical marijuana, the Heartland might as well be the Empty Quarter.

Now, a Kansas drug reform activist and a prominent state politician are hoping to change that. Today, Laura Green of the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas and former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan are holding a press conference on the capitol steps in Topeka to announce the formation of the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition, which will push to get a medical marijuana law in place in the Jayhawk State.

Stephan, a Republican who was attorney general from 1979 to 1995, came out of the closet as a medical marijuana supporter to local media this week, telling reporters he had supported legalizing the medicinal use of the herb for the past 20 years. His opinion was based on his own experience as a cancer patient, as well as talking to other cancer patients, he said.

"Our objectives are simple," said Green in a press release announcing the news conference and the new organization. "To allow physicians -- not politicians -- to make decisions about what is best for patients and to protect citizens from the risk of arrest simply because they're trying to gain relief from a major medical problem. No one should face the ordeal of arrest and possibly prison because they want to feel better," Green said. "That's why the Compassionate Care Coalition is working closely with state legislators, law enforcement officials, healthcare leaders and others to pass laws that will help our fellow Kansans in their time of need."

Look for a feature article on what's cooking in Kansas next week.

Medical Marijuana: Feds Seek Oregon Patient Records in Probe of Growers -- Patients Cry Foul

Oregon medical marijuana patients and their supporters are up in arms after it was revealed that a federal grand jury next door in Yakima, Washington, has issued subpoenas demanding medical records for 17 Oregon patients. The subpoenas were issued in April as part of a federal investigation into a small number of Washington and Oregon marijuana growers.

Subpoenas were served to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, the state office that issues permits to patients and growers, as well as The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, a private Portland clinic where doctors examine patients to see if their conditions can be alleviated by medical marijuana.
Donald DuPay, official 2006 election photo
As part of the same investigation, DEA agents in June raided the home of medical marijuana patient and caregiver Donald DuPay, seizing 135 plants he was growing for other patients. DuPay, who hosts a local cable TV show about marijuana, was not arrested. He is among the 17 people whose records were subpoenaed.

For Oregon patients, the experience has been frightening and disturbing. "It's crazy. It's really scary. If they can get my records, they can get Gov. Kulongoski's, they can get yours," DuPay, a former Portland police officer and 2006 candidate for Multnomah County sheriff, told The Oregonian on Saturday.

For medical marijuana advocates, it looks like a new tactic deployed by the feds in their ongoing effort to thwart state medical marijuana laws. The grand jury subpoenas are the first ever issued for patient records in a marijuana case, "and of course, it is very worrisome," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "People have an expectation of medical privacy, and I think they have a right to expect medical privacy," Mirken said. "It's one thing to talk about people selling a product that is in fact not legal under federal law. We may think that's stupid. But that's in a whole different realm than obtaining people's medical records."

"This sends a message to the other states and their programs that they're vulnerable to federal interference," said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access. "It doesn't take a brick to hit you over the head to know that the federal government is trying to undermine California's medical marijuana law, given all the raids and threats to landlords. This is one step further that shows the federal government is very serious about going after patients."

Patients and their advocates are fighting the subpoenas. On August 1, attorneys representing the state of Oregon, and the ACLU representing The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, went before Chief US District Court Judge Robert Whaley in Yakima to urge him to throw out the subpoenas.

In that hearing, Assistant US Attorney James Hagery, who is leading the federal investigation, admitted that the subpoenas were too broadly written. He told the judge the grand jury is investigating "four or five" Washington and Oregon growers for using the medical marijuana laws to cover up their marijuana sales, that the 17 patients were people who got medical marijuana from the growers in question, and that the grand jury wants only current addresses and phone numbers, not "medical records" for those patients.

Hagerty did not explain why, if he is investigating alleged non-medical marijuana sales, he needs to look at registered medical marijuana patients.

A ruling on the subpoenas will come soon, the judge said.

Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Balks At Growing It

Update: Gov. Richardson has ordered the Health Dept. to implement the law, and has urged President Bush to stop the medical marijuana prosecutions.

When the New Mexico legislature passed the state's medical marijuana law this year, the law was unique in mandating that the state would oversee the production and distribution of the herb. But Wednesday, the state health department announced it would not comply with that portion of the law for fear of the feds arresting state employees.

"The Department of Health will not subject its employees to potential federal prosecution, and therefore will not distribute or produce medical marijuana," said Dr. Alfredo Vigil, who heads the agency.

The decision was not exactly a surprise. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King warned last week that the department and its employees could be criminally prosecuted by the feds and that his office could not defend state workers in criminal cases.

But while lifting the threat of potential federal prosecution from the health department and its employees, the move may open them to legal action from supporters of the law. The agency is "leaving itself open for a lawsuit," Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico office head Reena Szczepanski told the Associated Press Wednesday. "I remember certain legislators talking about how they didn't want their grandmother to have to go into some alley and deal with some criminal element," said Szczepanski.

Order MPP's "newspaper" for your event

Is there an event coming up in your community where you'd like to distribute literature about the need to reform our nation's disastrous marijuana laws? MPP's new publication, the “Marijuana Policy Monitor,” makes for a great giveaway at conferences, concerts, festivals, and other events. Check it out here: This four-page flyer, printed on newsprint, contains a comprehensive overview of marijuana prohibition -- and why it should be brought to an end. It includes information on the victims of the government’s war on marijuana users, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, and safe access to medical marijuana for patients. You can find more information and view a copy here: To place an order, contact MPP’s Membership Department at or (202) 462-5747, ext. 132. Payment by credit card (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, or Visa) is preferred, but checks and money orders are accepted through the mail. Copies are 3 cents each, and a minimum order of 1,000 copies (or $30) is required. The price includes shipping and handling. Orders will ship twice a month from the fulfillment center in Ohio, so please allow time for delivery.
United States

ASA’s Media Summary for the Week ending 8/10/07

FEDERAL: Operators Charged after DEA Dispensary Raids FEDERAL: Hypocrisy on Federalist Principles Glaring KANSAS: State Measure to Protect Patients Urged NEW MEXICO: Scare Tactics from State Law Enforcement Chief CALIFORNIA: Officials Sorting Out Implementation DISPENSARIES: Patient Demand Clear, Official Responses Mixed -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- FEDERAL: Operators Charged after DEA Dispensary Raids Interference in California’s regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries has entailed threatening letters to landlords and the seizure of medicine and patient records. Now federal charges are being brought against some of the operators. This despite state law, local efforts at regulation, and the crucial services dispensaries offer the community’s most seriously ill and injured. The escalation has the earmarks of a failed policy in its final, desperate throes. Medical marijuana dispenser pleads not guilty to charges of selling drug illegally by Stephen Curran, San Luis Obispo Tribune (CA) The former owner of a Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary pleaded not guilty today on charges he used his controversial co-op as a front for illegally selling the drug. Not guilty plea in medical marijuana case by City News Service, Los Angeles Daily News A Valencia man who ran a West Hollywood medical marijuana storefront pleaded not guilty Monday to federal drug charges. COMMENT Drug raids add up to federal intimidation EDITORIAL, Freedom Newspapers The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has started playing hardball with medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, but it’s unclear how far it will move beyond symbolic intimidation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- FEDERAL: Hypocrisy on Federalist Principles Glaring This columnist is not the first to point out that if the present Administration were serious about its avowed principles it would not be interfering with state-level attempts to regulate medical use of marijuana. Likewise with the action of the US Supreme Court, which has taken federalist positions on guns near schools and child pornography. But in the case of both the Court and the Administration, politics and prejudice have overwhelmed principle. Feds Bust Former Portland Police Detective for Medical Marijuana by Tim King, Columnist, Salem-News (OR) The Portland Tribune's article Monday on the federal government's persistent hassling of a medical marijuana patient in Oregon, underscores the Bush administration's failure to value state's rights, and shows how they in fact do everything possible in some cases to eliminate them. ____________________________________________ KANSAS: State Measure to Protect Patients Urged The vast majority of Americans agree that no one should be prosecuted or imprisoned for following their doctor’s advice about medical treatment, or for helping a loved one ease their suffering. Each legislative session sees more state lawmakers considering measures to remove criminal penalties for medical use of marijuana, and Kansas may soon join the thirteen states with such exemptions. Group Advocates for Medical Marijuana Patients in Kansas WIBW CBS 13 (KS) A new, grassroots organization has been created in Kansas to advocate for legal protection of patients who use medical marijuana and for physicians who recommend the drug as part of a treatment program. Coalition seeks marijuana legalization by Scott Rothschild, Lawrence Journal-World (KS) A Lawrence woman who helped change the way marijuana cases are handled in Lawrence is leading a group that will seek a state law to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEW MEXICO: Scare Tactics from State Law Enforcement Chief Federal refusal to acknowledge the medical uses of cannabis has created problems for state and local officials who want to ensure that patients can safely access the medicine their doctors recommend. New Mexico lawmakers mandated a state system of distribution, but the attorney general there is warning that federal charges against state employees could result. That seems unlikely at best, since the federal government has yet to challenge any state medical marijuana laws. AG: NM State workers could face charges for marijuana law by Deborah Baker, Associated Press The state Department of Health and its employees could face federal prosecution for implementing New Mexico’s new medical-marijuana law, the attorney general has cautioned. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CALIFORNIA: Officials Sorting Out Implementation California local officials are starting to take seriously their charge under state law to implement safe access for qualified patients. The Mendocino ASA chapter and other local advocates worked closely with county officials to preserve a plant guideline quantity more than twice the state minimum. Pleasanton officials are also assessing patient needs in their community. Many cities and counties have established regulations for patient-run dispensing cooperatives, and others are studying the issue. Mendocino County medical pot: 25 plants by Ben Brown, Ukiah Daily Journal After eight months of discussion in the Criminal Justice Committee and nearly three hours of public comment from community members, including attorneys, doctors and medical marijuana advocates, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted to uphold county medical marijuana plant limits at the number established in 2000 by Measure G. Pleasanton looks to join medical pot needs survey by Meera Pal, Contra Costa Times (CA) Tasked with determining the community's need for medical marijuana, and whether that need is being met, the Pleasanton Human Services Commission has asked city staff to approach Alameda County about being part of a blind survey of medical marijuana ID card holders. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DISPENSARIES: Patient Demand Clear, Official Responses Mixed Patient collectives for dispensing medical cannabis have been appearing in many areas of California, particularly urban centers, because they provide not just a more efficient means of access but also support networks for the most seriously ill. Local officials are finding that sound regulatory ordinances for the operation of dispensaries can ensure patient needs are met and community concerns addressed. ASA's report on the issues involved is at City Hall Grapples with Medicinal Marijuana Dispensaries by Nick Welsh, Santa Barbara Independent Next week, Santa Barbara city councilmembers Grant House, Helene Schneider, and Mayor Marty Blum will ask their colleagues whether the council should try to regulate the conduct of medical marijuana clinics within Santa Barbara city limits. City firm on pot lawsuit by Will Bigham, Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA) Despite its vote last week to welcome a medical-marijuana dispensary to town, the City Council has shown no willingness to back down from its lawsuit against former dispensary operator Darrell Kruse. Bad flashback: Pot shop re-opens, Sheriff threatens to call feds KGET NBC TV (Bakersfield) Hours after a local medical marijuana dispensary re-opened its doors, crowds of people lined up to get inside. Last Pot Shop Shuts Down KERO -TV23 (Bakersfield) The owner of a medicinal marijuana shop in Bakersfield is closing his doors for good, after briefly re-opening Tuesday to help those he said were in need. Pot shop owner closes business by Jawson Kotowski, Bakersfield Californian Elation at reopening was replaced with resignation at closing up shop forever for the owner of the last operational medical marijuana dispensary in Kern County. Rialto considers banning medical-marijuana shops by Jason Pesick, Daily Bulletin The City Council will consider banning medical- marijuana facilities from the city on Wednesday.
United States

Americans for Safe Access Monthly Activist Newsletter - August 2007

Dispensary Progress in LA Despite DEA Raids City Council Starts Regulatory Process; Calls on DEA to Cease and Desist For two years, ASA organizers have been working with city officials in Los Angeles to ensure safe access to medical marijuana, educating them on the needs of patients and the benefits of a sound regulatory approach. The efforts of ASA and other patient advocates has resulted in significant progress in LA, so much so that the DEA has made it a target. On the same day that the Los Angeles City Council was preparing to take an important step toward regulating the operation of medical cannabis dispensing cooperatives, federal agents staged another set of coordinated paramilitary raids designed to intimidate local officials and patients. The raids on ten dispensaries came within weeks of the DEA sending over a hundred threatening letters to landlords of LA dispensaries, telling them the dispensaries are operating illegally under federal law and that the landlords could lose their buildings to federal asset forfeiture. These attacks on patient access were similar to the dozen simultaneous raids conducted in January. Like then, ASA activists sprang into immediate action, organizing protestors at dispensaries while raids were still going on and alerting the local media, which turned out in force. Within two hours of the raids starting, over 200 patients and advocates had gathered at one Hollywood dispensary, blockading the entrances and preventing DEA agents from leaving until they released the employees being detained. That same day, the Los Angeles City Council - under the leadership of Councilmember Dennis Zine, a former LA police officer with whom ASA has worked closely - voted overwhelmingly to establish the groundwork for a regulatory process for medical cannabis dispensaries that ASA has been advocating for two years. The council then all signed a letter to the DEA and then unanimously approved a motion endorsing the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would prevent future DEA attacks on state medical marijuana programs. Councilmember Zine also joined ASA before the hearing in a press conference calling on the DEA to abandon its attacks on medical cannabis dispensaries and allow LA to move forward without further federal interference. ASA's communication efforts helped ensure that LA media covered the raids and City Council actions from the patients' perspective - not the DEA's. And the story was picked up by the major networks and carried by hundreds of television and radio stations as well as newspapers across the country. Win in Colorado Medical Marijuana Caregiver Case Judge Invalidates State's Arbitrary Five-Patient Limit Safe access in Colorado took a big step forward this month, when a district judge overturned a state policy that arbitrarily limited the number of patients for which a caregiver can provide marijuana. The decision in the case of a seriously ill man living with HIV/AIDS came thanks to litigation led by Brian Vicente, lead counsel and head of the Colorado Campaign for Safe Access, a joint project of Sensible Colorado and ASA. "Arbitrary and capricious" is how Senior Denver District Judge Larry Naves described the Colorado Health Department's limit of five patients per caregiver, as he issued an injunction suspending the policy statewide. The decision gives patients far more choice in accessing medical marijuana. Specifically, the decision allows the plaintiff, Damien LaGoy, to appoint the medical marijuana provider of his choice. LaGoy, who uses medical marijuana to cope with nausea related to AIDS wasting syndrome and hepatitis C, had his caregiver request denied by the State Health Department in May 2007. "This is a historic victory for patients," said Vicente. "The decision to overturn this illegal policy is a giant step towards safe access to medical marijuana in Colorado." Colorado's Amendment 20, an initiative adopted by voters in 2000, allows caregivers to grow and provide medical marijuana for patients in need and provides no limit on the number of patients a caregiver can help. Media interest in the case and ruling was extensive, including TV and newspaper coverage. ASA Persists with Medical Marijuana Truth Suit Judge Delivers Setback But DQA Fight Continues ASA's landmark litigation to force the federal government to admit the truth about medical marijuana hit a bump in July. Federal District Court Judge William Alsup used a technicality to dismiss ASA's Data Quality Act (DQA) lawsuit. But, at the same time, he gave ASA the chance to amend the lawsuit and refile it, which we are doing. In its decision, the court indicated that ASA could argue that the nearly three years of stalling from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration constitutes an unreasonable delay. That opens the door for ASA to force a substantive response from the government on ASA’s petition, which says that there is no sound scientific basis for the government's continued insistence that "marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." A substantive response from the government would be either an acknowledgement of the thousands of scientific and medical articles and research findings showing medical uses for marijuana, or a continued denial. If the government refuses to concede the facts, ASA can then turn to the courts for intervention. ASA will file an amended complaint in the DQA case on or before August 17, 2007. More information about the groundbreaking lawsuit can be found at Patient Protections Edging Forward in DC More Vote for Hinchey-Rohrabacher; Heat for Those Who Don't July marked the fifth attempt in as many years to end on the federal level DEA interference in state medical marijuana programs. In fact, on the very day that the DEA was making its simultaneous raids in Los Angeles, Congress was debating the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to the Commerce/Justice Department and Science appropriation bill. The bi-partisan Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment - named for Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) - would cut funding to the DEA for raids against patients or caregivers who are legal under state law. The final vote for the amendment was 165 in favor, 262 opposed and 10 abstaining, an improvement over previous years that reflects ASA's hard work in the National Office and grassroots efforts. With the change in Congressional leadership, particular the ascendancy of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to Speaker, ASA and other advocates had hoped for more. And, in fact, ASA helped recruit three new votes and over two dozen new medical cannabis supporters, but the opposition convinced nine representatives (eight Democrats and one Republican) to flip their votes from last year. But not without consequence. As Alan Bock, an editorial writer for the conservative Orange County Register notes, "I'm pleased to see that some of those who voted against the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment (which would deny funds for any DEA crackdowns on patients, growers and distributors in states with medical marijuana laws) are getting some negative attention. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, CA, a freshman, was the only S.F. Bay-area Democrat to vote against the measure, and according to a story [in the San Francisco Chronicle] he's being criticized widely and having to defend himself." Check out ASA's August Action Alert for how to make sure your representatives hear your voice on this issue.
United States

Editorial: Why Do People the Government Says Don't Exist Keep Writing Me?

David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden
One of the mantras in the prohibitionist movement is the claim that "medical marijuana is a hoax." They call it a "cruel hoax" when they're feeling especially passionate or threatened.

We in the drug reform movement often feel bemused by this. After all, we actually know medical marijuana patients -- yes, real live medical marijuana patients. We interact with them at conferences. We help them with protests. Some of us lobby with them in Congress or the state houses. Their relatives are our friends and colleagues too.

During the recent efforts around the Hinchey/Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment last month, a lot of people concerned with the issue sent us emails, and some of them were patients. I've published some of their comments on our blog, but I think they merit republishing here:

"I have had multiple sclerosis and a seizure disorder for 13 years now. I tried it the legal way and just got sicker and sicker, to the point of staying in bed all day. Then I tried marijuana, and it's like a wonder drug for me! I do not get high from the marijuana, it helps relax my muscles and takes the spasms away. Not to mention it's the only way I have an appetite to eat anything. How could someone tell me, no medical marijuana for you?"

"Six years ago I was literally struck down with Fibromyalgia. I simply couldn't get out of bed one morning. I crawled versus walking most of the time as it was less painful. My husband had to lift me onto the toilet, give me baths, cook, etc., because I was of no use to anyone, including myself. I also had no appetite whatsoever. I lost 20 pounds in a matter of weeks, leaving me a frail 100 lb 50 year old. My husband thought maybe marijuana might help with my appetite, so he "scored" some for me. It not only restored my appetite, it also took a lot of my pain away. It makes me sick to think we both could have been arrested. When is this country going to wake up?!!"

"I have had to move back home to a state that does not allow the medical use of marijuana -- the state I was in before, Maine, allowed it -- and it is very hard for me to find relief from my pain now. My doctor has increased my medications twofold, and I do not get the pain control I had on 1/2 the narcotics with the smoke. I just hope some day the government will stop demonizing a very useful tool, and allow us who really get relief from it without abuse of the drug."

Why do these people whom the government claims don't exist keep writing me? So much for the "hoax" -- the hoax is calling it a hoax. Another particularly misleading argument we hear from prohibitionists is that "there are better medicines" than marijuana for the conditions people are using it for. Even if it were true (across the board in the way they are claiming), the idea that there are better medicines implicitly contains within it the implication that marijuana is at least a medicine -- and therefore not a hoax.

But the argument is fundamentally flawed. Medicine is an individual matter. The best medicine for me, for a given condition, might not be the best one for you, even if you suffer from the same condition, and vice versa. Doubtless some medications stand out as having a superior track record overall to other ones -- some doubtless stand out for their negatives too, and there may even be some conditions for which one choice of medicine really is the best one across the board. But in general that's not the case -- the idea that there is one best medicine, for all patients, is a false one, and being the "best" is not the standard that's in place for approval of a drug as a medicine. The standard is that the drug has medical benefit, and can be taken with a sufficient degree of safety. Those who argue that there are better medicines than marijuana are applying a double standard, and one that doesn't really make sense.

So who's committing the hoax? (Hint: Not I.)

Canada: Health Canada Gives Okay to Sativex for Cancer Patients

Health Canada announced Tuesday it has approved Sativex, a marijuana-derived sublingual spray, for use as a pain reliever in patients suffering from advanced cancer. Sativex contains THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as well as cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound.

The drug, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British concern, and Bayer, can now be used by adult cancer patients who experience moderate to severe pain even while using the highest tolerated doses of opioid pain medications. Previously, its use in Canada had been limited to multiple sclerosis patients.

Like its use for MS, Sativex's use in cancer patients was approved under Health Canada's Notice of Compliance with Conditions policy, which means that while Sativex has demonstrated promising benefits, is of high quality, and possesses an acceptable safety profile, it still needs further study.

"Cannabinoids have an important role in treating complex cancer pain, particularly neuropathic pain, and demonstrate a positive effect with current treatment options," Dr. Lawrence Librach, the director of the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, said in a Health Canada release.

"GW is delighted to receive Health Canada's regulatory approval for Sativex in the relief of cancer pain," said GW chairman Dr. Geoffrey Guy. "Sativex has been shown to provide important pain relief to the most high need patients with advanced cancer. We are pleased to be able to offer the prospect of an improved quality of life for people who previously had little such opportunity."

Press Release: Report Reveals Massive Inefficiencies in Government's Medical Cannabis Program, Urges Cost Coverage for Medicine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- August 9, 2007 CONTACT: Rielle Capler, T: 604-875-0214, E: Report Reveals Massive Inefficiencies in Government's Medical Cannabis Program, Urges Cost Coverage for Medicine A report released today by the BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS) uncovers massive spending inefficiencies in Health Canada's Medical Cannabis program. It was recently discovered that the government is marking up their supply of cannabis by 1500%--and that many people who have ordered the government's supply are unable to afford it and have been cut off from accessing this sole legal source. The BCCCS felt this situation warranted further scrutiny of the cultivation contracts between Health Canada and its supplier of cannabis, Prairie Plant Systems (PPS). The report's highlights include findings that: 63% of the cannabis Health Canada buys from PPS is unusable, at a cost of $220,000 this year; and 80% of the total cost of the government program are operational costs, including the cost of reports at a price of $86,740 per month. These are some of the costs being passed on to patients. The original contract between Health Canada and PPS began in December 2000, with the cost of the contract now totaling over $10 million. The report finds that community-based dispensaries are more cost-effective--while also providing higher quality services to many more people who suffer from critical and chronic illnesses. It costs the government $500,000 more per year to serve 10 times fewer people than the BC Compassion Club. The BC Compassion Club, a non-profit medical cannabis dispensary, just celebrated its 10th year anniversary of distributing high quality cannabis to over 4000 critically and chronically ill Canadians. Together compassion clubs across the country serve an estimated 10,000 people, whereas Health Canada's program has licensed only about 1,700 Canadians, of whom only 350 are accessing their cannabis from PPS. "Health Canada is requiring taxpayers and medical cannabis patients to fund inefficient practices, capital upgrades, and equipment for a private contractor. Instead of providing affordable medicine to those in need, Health Canada has chosen a policy and program that seemingly creates a windfall for one monopoly supplier," states Rielle Capler, the report's author. The report highlights the need for cost coverage of this important medicine, regardless of the source. "The cost of cannabis for those in medical need must be covered under Canada's universal health care system as it is for other medicine," says Ms. Capler. The Attorney General's office is in the early stages of an audit of certain user fees in Health Canada's program. The Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS) is currently in court with a constitutional challenge of the government's program. Senator Pierre Claude Nolin and Lynne Belle-Isle of the Canadian AIDS Society testified against the program this week in Victoria. "It's clear from the testimony of patients enrolled in this program that the cost is an obstacle to safe access to medical cannabis," said Philippe Lucas, director of VICS. "Compassion clubs have long urged the government to explore cost-coverage options through provincial or federal funds." To see the report:

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