Thursday December 21 7:26 PM ET
OTTAWA (CP) - The federal government has chosen a Saskatoon company to provide Canada with a legal supply of marijuana for medical and research purposes.
Prairie Plant Systems won a $5.75-million, five-year contract to supply marijuana, the Health Department announced Thursday. The contract requires that standardized, quality marijuana be available within a year. "A Canadian source of research-grade marijuana is essential to move forward on our research plan," Health Minister Allan Rock said in a statement.
Under the contract, Prairie Plant Systems will set up operations at Flin Flon, Man. Some work will also be done at the company's head office in Saskatoon.
"We're happy to get it. It's an exciting time for us," said PPS president Brent Zettl.
The pot will be grown, processed, and packaged several hundred metres underground in an unused portion of a copper mine near Flin Flon, Zettl said.
It will then be shipped to Ottawa, where Health Canada will decide who gets how much.
The 7,432 square-metre operation offers "genetic containment" as well as security, Zettl said.
"There's only one way in and one way out," he said.
In June 1999, the Health Department set up a process whereby people wishing to use marijuana for medical reasons could apply for an exemption to the federal ban on its use.
To date, about 140 people have received exemptions.
Last week, an Alberta judge ruled that the federal law banning cultivation of marijuana is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow for the medical use of the drug.
Justice Darlene Acton said the granting of exemptions without a legal supply is an "absurdity" and gave the government a year to prove a legal source of the drug.
Grant Krieger, the Calgary activist who won the Alberta court decision, was lukewarm at Thursday's announcement of a supplier.
"It will alleviate a little bit but not what it's fully capable of doing," said Krieger, a 46-year-old who uses the drug to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
"It's like putting a Band-Aid on when you actually need a major bandage. All (the federal government is) doing is they're giving a little bit of medicine but not the best quality medicine available."
Krieger noted the contract specifications call for marijuana with a level of six per cent of the plant's active ingredient, calling it "another blatant waste of taxpayers' dollars, cultivating a substandard medicinal product for the Canadian ill.
"It's going to slant clinical research on the actual medicinal benefit of this plant by producing a substandard product."
© The Canadian