More MS news articles for July 2001

Canada Unveils New Marijuana Rules

Wednesday July 4 8:33 PM ET
By TOM COHEN, Associated Press Writer

TORONTO (AP) - New regulations expanding the legal use of medical marijuana will allow people with terminal or debilitating illnesses to possess and cultivate pot, or designate someone to do it for them.

But the Canadian Medical Association opposed the rules announced Wednesday, saying that too little is known about the possible harm from the drug.

The guidelines take effect July 30, meeting a court-ordered deadline for the government to create the regulatory system.

"Today's announcement is a landmark in our ongoing effort to give Canadians suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses access to marijuana for medical purposes," Health Minister Allan Rock said. "This compassionate measure will improve the quality of life of sick Canadians, particularly those who are terminally ill."

The regulations create categories of people who could possess marijuana, including those with specified terminal illnesses with a prognosis of death within one year and others with symptoms associated with serious medical conditions. The second category would include patients with severe arthritis, cancer, HIV (news - web sites)/AIDS (news - web sites) and multiple sclerosis.

"These regulations are placing Canadian physicians and their patients in the precarious position of attempting to access a product that has not gone through the normal protocols of rigorous pre-market testing," said Dr. Hugh Scully, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, which represents 50,000 physicians.

The regulations were drawn up after a court ruling last year that gave the government until July 31 to change criminal laws so that people requiring marijuana for medicinal purposes could legally obtain and possess it.

Canada already has a legal industry for hemp - cannabis cultivated with very low amounts of the chemical that produces the high sought by marijuana smokers - while the U.S. federal government prohibits hemp production.

The Canadian Supreme Court also has agreed to consider a case that argues criminalizing marijuana is unconstitutional because the drug poses no significant health threat.