Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 02:00
St. Catharines Standard
There are persuasive arguments in favour of legalizing marijuana for the personal use of patients who could benefit from it.
We have argued for years that the drug should be made available for those patients who cannot keep food down, who have no appetite or who suffer from multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis or AIDS.
But itís hard for us to agree that the production of legal grass for seriously ill patients should be run by the government.
Not with its poor track record.
Those who favour legalized grass often argue the government should regulate marijuana production, tax the product and distribute it much in the way the LCBO distributes alcoholic beverages. They hold out the promise of huge tax revenues as a way of convincing politicians and bureaucrats who worry about Reefer Madness on our street corners.
But only last week we commented on the fact the federal governmentís $5.7-million grow operation in an unused mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba, was six months behind schedule, its marijuana crop was unuseable and none of the 250 kilograms harvested would reach the patients whose suffering it might ease.
This yearís crop is much more potent than last yearís ó but too potent to use ó and the operation failed to grow a mild placebo version of the plant to be tested in blind trials.
In other words, two years and millions of dollars later, the operation is a huge flop.
We find it curious the crop the government was growing was never intended for use by the suffering. Health Canada wants to test it first to see if there is any scientific proof that marijuana eases patientsí discomfort.
But if that is the case, why then did the government issue permits to 36 Canadians allowing them to legally grow marijuana or to designate a grower to supply them with an ďuntestedĒ drug? If the government isnít sure use of marijuana makes life easier for those patients, why permit these people to grow it and the patients to use it?
On the other hand, if Ottawa wants to test the efficacy of marijuana, why not use the grass these people are already successfully growing, rather than waste $5.7 million on a project in Flin Flon that has failed two years in a row?
Not only are these 36 Canadians successfully growing marijuana, Eric Nash and his wife Wendy Little of Duncan, B.C., have even had their crop officially certified as 100 per cent organic.
If ordinary people can succeed at producing medically usable pot that is organically grown, why canít the government?
If the government cannot succeed at it, despite spending millions on the project, it should scrap its grow operation and test the marijuana from the growers who are intending it for use by these patients.
Our federal politicians have to evolve their marijuana policies to blend with the publicís views on how grass should be used and when its use should be penalized. So far, thereís been too much contradictory regulation and confusion that has only worsened the situation.
Itís time for Ottawa to either grow or get off the pot.
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