O cannabis: Court forces sale of pot

By Tom Cohen Associated Press
From the Rocky Mountain News, Thursday, July 10, 2003

TORONTO - Canada's government will sell marijuana and seeds to sick people
and their suppliers to fulfill a court order for it to provide medical pot by Wednesday.

The announcement of the interim measure satisfies an Ontario court order
while the federal government appeals the ruling.

Under the program announced by the Health Minister Anne McLellan,
eligible patients can buy just over an ounce of dried marijuana for $112,
well below street prices, about once a month.
Authorized growers can buy packs of 30 seeds once a year for $15.

Health Canada spokeswomen Cindy Cripps-Prawak
said the government-grown wed has a THC content of 10 percent,
compared to between 3 percent and 18 percent in most street marijuana.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

The Ontario court ruling in January gave the government until Wednesday
to broaden access to medical marijuana,
saying that current laws made "seriously ill, vulnerable people
deal with the criminal underworld to get medicine."

Wednesday's announcement continued Canada's long-running debate on medical marijuana,
and came as the government prepares to consider legislation
that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot.

The medical marijuana issue involved people with catastrophic or chronic illness
who say they need the soothing effects of THC to ease pain and control nausea and other problems.

Canada unveiled plans for medical marijuana in 2000
and began growing a supply in an abandoned mineshaft in Manitoba.

Those regulations also cleared the way for distribution of government-grown pot.
Health Canada later announced it needed more tests
on the effects of medicinal marijuana and the quality of its pot before making any available.

That brought last year's court ruling ordering the government
to offer a legal supply instead of making patients buy off the street.

While hundreds have received federal exemptions to grow and possess marijuana,
others complain about the difficulty of getting doctors to approve requests.