Canada: Federal Medical Marijuana Program a Flop, AIDS Society Says 6/16/06

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The Canadian government's medical marijuana program is not working, the Canadian AIDS Society said in . According to the report, only 1.7% of Canadian medical marijuana patients take part in the government's program, while 85% of them obtain their marijuana on the black market.

Although the Canadian government has spent more than $5 million US on its program, fewer than 200 Canadians are currently enrolled, the report found. The report is the culmination of an 18-month project aimed at identifying barriers to access to medical marijuana and the federal government's medical marijuana program.

The report points out a number of obstacles to greater enrollment in the government plan, including lack of awareness that it even exists, difficulties in finding physicians who will cooperate by recommending marijuana, and the lack of good options for an affordable, legal supply. Marijuana provided through the government program is grown by a single contractor and is almost universally shunned as low quality by patients. Taken together, these obstacles are an absolute incentive for patients to turn to the black market, the report said.

The AIDS Society report made several recommendations to improve the program. The program should be audited by the Auditor General to ensure it is using resources effectively, the group said. Seriously ill Canadians and other interested parties should be represented in a renewed Health Canada Stakeholders' Advisory Committee to ensure their interests are heard. The country's hesitant doctors' associations need to come on board as well, and the government needs to back away from its efforts to restrict individual grows for patients and community grows in the form of compassion clubs.

If Health Canada were to heed the reasonable recommendations in this report, Canada's Medical Marijuana Access Regulations could move from being the bad joke they have become.

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Issue #440 -- 6/16/06

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