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Canada: Medicinal Marijuana

 
1. Summary of recent political developments (prepared by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy)

2. June 9, 1999: Minister of Health announces clinical trials program, and procedure for exempting from criminal prosecution individuals who successfully apply to Health Canada for access to medicinal marijuana. To see the story in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the June 9 statement by the Minister of Health in the House of Commons, click here. To see the government press release, including the proposed research plan, click here.

3. Extracts from House of Commons Debates (Hansard) relating to theoriginal statement (March 3, 1999) by Canada's Minister of Health stating his intention to pursue medicinal marijuana trials: (to see full transcript of the complete day's debates, click here.) Press coverage relating to Minister's announcement.

4. Extracts from House of Commons Debates (Hansard) relating to motion by Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras, "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes:" House of Commons passes amended motion on May 25, 1999: "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take steps immediately concerning the possible legal medical use of marijuana including developing a research plan containing clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as well as access to a safe medicinal supply, and that the government report its findings and recommendations before the House rises for the summer."

  • May 25, 1999 House of Commons Debates (to see full transcript of the complete day's debates, click here.)
  • March 4, 1999 House of Commons Debates (to see full transcript of the complete day's debates, click here.)
  • April 14, 1999 House of Commons Debates (to see full transcript of the complete day's debates, click here)
See also the medical marijuana site established by the Bloc Quebecois party.

5. Research materials and other stories on medicinal marijuana and marijuana generally at Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy web site, including the March 1999 report of the Institute of Medicine.


Recent Canadian Political and Legal Developments about Medicinal Marijuana
(partly updated as of September 15, 2000)
prepared by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, and including excerpts from a forthcoming journal article by Dr. Patricia Erickson and Eugene Oscapella of the Foundation

In March 1999, debate started on a motion introduced in the House of Commons by a member of the opposition Bloc Quebecois party.  The motion read, “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes.” The Member of Parliament who introduced the motion had apparently managed to obtain considerable support from within all parties. Debate on the motion was set to take place over the spring of 1999, with a vote planned for June. (The vote on an amended and watered-down motion took place on May 25. For details, click here.)

 The day before this motion was introduced, Canada’s Minister of Health stated in the House of Commons that the government was “aware there are Canadians suffering, who have terminal illnesses, who believe that using medical marijuana can help ease their symptoms. We want to help.”  The Minister announced that, as a result, he had asked his officials to develop a plan that will include clinical trials for medical marijuana, appropriate guidelines for its medical use and access to a safe supply of this drug.  No details were provided, however, as to how long this process would take, nor how such a program would operate.

 There was some cynicism about the Minister’s announcement, since the announcement appeared to be an attempt to undermine the Bloc Quebecois motion with a relatively vague promise to “develop a plan”. Furthermore, the Minister had refused to that time (March 1999) to use powers already available to him under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to exempt medicinal use of cannabis from the law.

However, on June 9, the Minister announced a clinical trials program and a process for individuals who sought access to medicinal marijuana to apply to Health Canada for an exemption. He also announced exemptions under section 56 for two individuals. To see the government press release which provides details of the program and the exemptions, click here.

 

Court challenges to Canada's cannabis laws

Some important cases have come before the courts that challenge the constitutionality of the cannabis prohibition under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  These are the Clay (1997), Parker (1997), Krieger (1998) and Caine (1998) cases.  In the Clay case, the proprietor of a London (Ontario) hemp products store was charged with cultivation and trafficking of cannabis seedlings. Clay refused to plea bargain down to simple possession;  his case received a lot of media attention.  As well, Mr. Clay constructed his own web site for the case to raise money.  Further, the defendant was very articulate, middle class, and supported by his respectable, conventional family.  The basis for the defence was a Charter challenge to the (then) Narcotic Control Act as an excessive and inappropriate response to the behaviour involved in cannabis consumption.  Although Clay was convicted in August 1997 of trafficking and placed on probation, the judge’s ruling is seen as significant because he accepted the expert witness testimony about the relative harmlessness of cannabis, in effect dismantling much of the demon drug mythology, and explicitly recognized its potential medical benefits.  The judge referred the matter back to Parliament’s law making role.

When the Parker case was tried a few months later, involving charges of possession and trafficking in cannabis, the defence hinged on Parker’s own medical condition of epilepsy.  Here the judge not only referred to the Clay case, but also accepted the testimony of other expert witnesses, and Parker himself, that smoking marijuana was the only effective remedy for his severe, frequent seizures.  The judge ruled in December 1997 that to deprive the defendant of a legal source of marijuana contravened his primary Charter right to health and protection of life.  Therefore, the judge acquitted Parker of possession and ordered the police to return the seized plants to him (however, since he had admitted to the police that he gave cannabis to others who needed help, the judge said he had no choice but to convict him on that charge and impose probation).

The importance of this ruling is that Parker’s right to obtain a legal source of marijuana, through his own growing activities, was recognized.  This case has been interpreted by Parker’s own lawyer as a special case, not extending at this time to others claiming medical necessity, i.e. such individuals are still subject to arrest and prosecution.  Both the Clay and Parker cases are under appeal by the federal Department of Justice. The appeals of the two cases were heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal,  in the autumn of 1999.

On July 31, 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously confirmed the earlier trial court decision in favour of legal access to medical marijuana.  Court was considering a constitutional challenge to the marijuana prohibitions in the former Narcotic Control Act ("NCA") and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act ("CDSA") in the context of the medical use of marijuana. On December 10, 1997, the trial judge, Sheppard J. granted a stay of proceedings brought against Terrance Parker for cultivating marijuana contrary to the NCA and for possession of marijuana contrary to the CDSA.  The Crown appealed.  The unanimous Court of Appeal confirmed the trial judge's decision to stay the charges against Parker.  Accordingly, the prohibition on the possession of marijuana in the CDSA is declared to be of no force and effect. However, that declaration of invalidity is suspended for a year. For a summary of the court decision, click here.  For the full text of the court decision, click here.  For news report, click here.  For Toronto Globe and Mail editorial, click here.

The Clay and Parker cases were heard in Ontario, a province which historically has been somewhat more lenient in cannabis matters than Alberta, where the Krieger case was heard.  Mr. Krieger, suffering from multiple sclerosis, was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.  He had publicized his intention to attend an Alberta court house to offer marijuana to another multiple sclerosis sufferer, who was on trial for possession for the purpose of trafficking. When Mr. Krieger acted upon his declared intention, he was arrested, charged and convicted.  However, before sentencing, the judge gave Mr. Krieger additional time to prepare evidence about the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

The judge in the Krieger case noted the well settled principle in sentencing that trafficking in cannabis will attract a jail term, even for a first offender, except in exceptional circumstances.  However, the judge considered Mr. Krieger’s case “exceptional”, given the motivation behind Mr. Krieger’s actions -- his belief that cannabis possesses healing powers.  Mr. Krieger was sentenced to a $500 fine or 11 days in jail. This case has therefore set an important precedent.

 In Caine, a British Columbia case, the accused applied for a declaration that prohibition against the  possession of marijuana for personal use was contrary to section 7 of the Charter – the right to “life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”.  However, the judge rejected the argument, citing his duty to follow a B.C. Supreme Court decision that the prohibition of cannabis possession did not violate section 7.  The accused’s request that the judge reconsider whether Parliament had the constitutional jurisdiction to prohibit the possession of cannabis also failed.

In May 1999, James Wakeford, a Toronto AIDS patient, won the right to cultivate and possess marijuana. The court granted Wakeford an interim constitutional exemption, thus allowing him to cultivate and possess, pending the outcome of Wakeford's application to Health Canada seeking the same right to cultivate and possess. For details of the Wakeford case, click here. On June 9, 1999, the Minister of Health announced that Mr. Wakeford would be given an exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, thus allowing him to cultivate and possess marijuana to treat his health condition.

 These five cases, and others pending have all given a high profile to cannabis issues and provided new and important information to the public through the media coverage.  Perhaps this partly explains why a 1997 poll found that 83% of Canadians supported legitimizing marijuana for medical purposes.  A 1999 poll obtained overwhelming support on a similar issue: 78% of those polled said they supported the federal government’s then recently announced plan to consider the use of marijuana as a possible treatment for various medicinal conditions. In May, 2000, a poll conducted for National Post finds over 90% favour legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. For full story, click here.

As well, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Ontario) "concurs with similar calls from many other expert stakeholders who believe that control of cannabis possession for personal use should be removed from the realm of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the criminal law/criminal justice system."  To see full statement, click here.
 

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Extracts from:

Canada - House of Commons

EDITED HANSARD

• NUMBER 188

Wednesday, March 3, 1999

. . .
 

1445

HEALTH

Mrs. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. There are indications that marijuana could be beneficial for the relief of pain and nausea in cancer, AIDS, MS and glaucoma patients. Is the minister supportive of making marijuana medically available to persons in medical need and of supporting research into the medical effectiveness of marijuana?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member for London West has done a great deal to advance this issue. This government is aware there are Canadians suffering, who have terminal illnesses, who believe that using medical marijuana can help ease their symptoms. We want to help.

As a result, I have asked my officials to develop a plan that will include clinical trials for medical marijuana, appropriate guidelines for its medical use and access to a safe supply of this drug.

. . .

1455

HEALTH

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the health minister just made an announcement that he will allow the compassionate use of smoked marijuana for those who are ill.

Is this the first step in the Liberal government's decriminalizing marijuana for other purposes?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what I said is I have asked officials to develop a plan that would include access to clinical trials so we can look at evidence. Surely the hon. member's mind is not so closed that he is not prepared to consider evidence from research into the question.

There are people who are dying. They want access to something they believe will help with their symptoms. We want to help. Clinical trials would allow us to get research to know more about how we can help.
 
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Canada - House of Commons

EDITED HANSARD

• NUMBER 189

Thursday, March 4, 1999
 

LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA FOR HEALTH AND MEDICAL PURPOSES

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont, BQ) moved:

     That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana
     for health and medical purposes.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be the first elected member of the House of Commons to speak, not just today in this
debate, but in the history of the House of Commons, on this vital matter of the legalization of marijuana for health and medical
purposes.

Marijuana has been used medicinally throughout the world for thousands of years. Today many patients, particularly those
suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other diseases, testify to the marked relief they obtain from
inhaling marijuana.

The therapeutic use of marijuana is, however, still banned by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and users are liable to
a six-month prison sentence and a $1000 fine.

With a view to changing this unacceptable situation, I introduced a motion one year ago in favour of the legalization of marijuana for health and medical purposes. For me, this is a matter of compassion toward sick people suffering from nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and other major discomforts which accompany a number of chronic diseases.

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My motion is simple and unequivocal. It reads as follows:

     That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana
     for health and medical purposes.

In my opinion, it is unacceptable for a person with a chronic condition, or a terminally ill AIDS patient, to be liable for six months in prison and a $10,000 fine for using a medical treatment recommended by his or her physician.

In this connection, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is totally devoid of understanding and compassion toward the chronically ill, who want nothing more than to live in dignity. This act must be changed as soon as possible, in order to allow the medical use of marijuana by those who need it.

The Ontario court has already found part of the Narcotic Control Act to be unconstitutional. Clearly, the ball is now in our
court here in the House of Commons.

We have been elected to fulfil a role as legislators. We have no right to let the courts decided in our stead. We must now
assume our responsibility as elected representatives by inviting the federal government to pass concrete measures without delay
that will allow the therapeutic use of marijuana.

At the present time, the only parliamentary approach that can achieve this is to give solid support to Motion M-381, which we
are debating here today for the first time, and which calls upon the government to “undertake all necessary steps to legalize the
use of marijuana for health and medical purposes”. The situation is urgent. For those who suffer, every day counts.

My position in favour of the legalization of marijuana for therapeutic purposes was not formed yesterday. I was first made
aware of this injustice by my constituents, who urged me to take a public position in favour of legalizing marijuana for health and
medical purposes.

Last March 6, I publicly supported a proposal along these lines by young delegates to the Bloc Quebecois youth forum. I am
happy that this proposal was passed unanimously at the time by forum delegates. The proposal called on the Bloc Quebecois to
take a stand in favour of the therapeutic use of marijuana and urged its parliamentary wing to follow up.

Delegates were very happy to hear our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, support their proposal in his closing
address to the conference. Two weeks later, I followed up with the motion we are debating for the first time today.

This is not a new debate. The media and the courts have been looking at this issue for some time now. Doctors are discussing it
with each other, and criminologists and patient advocacy groups are giving it thought. It is a topic that has been of interest to
many people except, until today, members of the House of Commons. Now, since this debate will be followed by a vote, each
of us here in the House will have an opportunity to take a clear stand on the issue. This is, in our view, a simple issue of
transparency.

Until now, every time the issue of legalizing the therapeutic use of marijuana came up, the Minister of Health or the Minister of
Justice tried to duck it. Their answer was always that they were open to the issue, their officials were studying it, and they
hoped to be able to announce a plan or something more specific in a few months' time, all the while hoping that the issue would
go away.

 

   1725

They say the same thing the next time the question comes up. This was what they did last year when an Ontario court judge
ruled that a section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was unconstitutional.

It was what they said when an AIDS sufferer from the Outaouais and his physician asked the government to take action on this
issue. It is also what the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice told me when I put the question to them here in the
House one year ago on March 10 and 23, 1998.

Yesterday, it was the usual scenario. On the eve of the first day of debate on the motion that marijuana be legalized for medical
purposes, the Minister of Health suddenly feels a need to demonstrate compassion towards the chronically ill.

What does he do to help? He announces that he will ask his officials to prepare a plan to draw up guidelines for eventual
legalization of marijuana for medical use. I repeat: he announces that he will once again ask his officials to prepare a plan to
draw up guidelines for eventual legalization of marijuana for medical use.

What have the officials the minister asked to look into this issue last year been doing? What do they have to show for their
research? Only the minister knows.

Yesterday, the Minister of Health took a step in the right direction, and I said so yesterday. He deserves credit. He has
announced that he will be asking these same departmental employees to draw up an action plan with a view to legalizing the
therapeutic use of marijuana. Hence we now know the mandate he claims to have given to his staff.

How can we have any faith in his words when, in the past, the minister's actions did not fall in line with his commitments? Why
did the minister announce a policy of openness but still no precise timeframe or concrete measures to achieve the legal use of
marijuana for health and therapeutic purposes? Once again, his actions denote a lack of transparency. What is more, this new
policy smacks of last-minute improvization by the minister. He rushed to give his people a mandate just as the issue was about
to be debated.

Ms. Elinor Caplan: Not true.

Mr. Bernard Bigras: I hear the parliamentary secretary over there taking the liberty to react to what I am saying.

The parliamentary secretary ought to be familiar with the demands by the Canadian AIDS Society. She ought to be familiar
with the position of the Canadian Hemophilia Society, which has been tabled today. She ought to be familiar with the positions
of Donald Kilby, director of the University of Ottawa Health Services. And of Réjean Thomas, a leading figure in the treatment
of AIDS. And she ought to be familiar with the case of James Wakeford, who has made a request under the special access
program. With the cases of Jean-Charles Parizeau and Terry Parker. But no, the parliamentary secretary does not want to
know.

The minister's new policy smacks of improvization, as I have said.

He has given a hasty mandate to his departmental employees on the eve of a debate on the matter, but is unable to give any
details on his policy. In fact, the minister cannot even say whether his announcement means that he is taking the necessary steps
to legalize the health and medical use of marijuana.

 

   1730

That is exactly what today's motion is calling for. The minister is still refusing to say whether he will vote for or against the
motion. I hope that we can clarify his intentions in the course of debate.

If the minister said yesterday that he was prepared to take steps towards legalization, the only course open to him in June is to
vote in favour. Any move by the government to vote against this motion will be interpreted by those favouring the legalization of
marijuana for medical purposes as unwillingness to keep this promise.

I repeat, the government and the minister must demonstrate in good faith. I grant that he has taken a step in the right direction,
but his actions must suit his words, and he must vote in favour of the motion.

In fact, the minister is certainly not yet able to tell us what stand he will take. We are still waiting, and would have liked an
announcement yesterday as to where he stood. But instead we must wait.

I was in touch by phone as recently as yesterday with patients, doctors, and associations asking me to continue the fight,
because nothing is a given, because although there was an announcement yesterday, no timeframe was mentioned. There was
no research protocol. We know that there is no indication whatsoever that the minister listens to patients, for instance those
who have made applications under the Health Canada special access program, which is the minister's own responsibility.

I therefore wish to assure everyone, not only in this House, but everyone involved in the campaign, the physicians, the patients,
that I will continue the awareness campaign I launched this morning.

I wish to assure them that this lack of transparency can only make me step up the pressure so that a majority of MPs here in
this House will be able to vote in favour of this motion. The government has no excuse whatsoever for taking refuge behind
inaction, as it has so far.

No one disputes the therapeutic effectiveness of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal active ingredient in marijuana.
Moreover, physicians can already prescribe Marinol tablets, and have been doing so for some years now. This authorized
medication contains synthetic THC and is already available in pharmacies. It is prescribed mainly to relieve nausea in terminally
ill patients and to stimulate appetite.

However, taking synthetic marijuana pills is not as effective as inhalation. According to the prestigious New England Journal
of Medicine, swallowing pills cannot be compared to inhalation, which rapidly raises blood THC levels and greatly enhances
the sought-after medical efficacy.

What is more, many patients who would be candidates for the medical use of marijuana are already required to take huge
numbers of pills daily. We are talking of numbers even in excess of 30. One can imagine what taking more pills in the form of
Marinol means, then. The precise purpose of marijuana is to help make the taking of so many pills bearable by relieving nausea.

Obviously, it is better to administer THC for nausea by the pulmonary route than the digestive route. Many physicians are
therefore campaigning for the possibility of prescribing THC in the form best suited to their patients. They argue that they are in
the best position to determine what suits their patients best.

 

   1735

The Canadian Medical Association represents the medical community in Canada and ensures that the health care system
provides doctors with what they need to deliver quality health care to their patients. Since 1981, this association has been
arguing that the simple possession of marijuana should be decriminalized, but it deplores the absence of more systematic
scientific research on the topic.

In 1995, the American Medical Association pointed out the need to review American legislation on the therapeutic use of
marijuana. The British Medical Association goes even further: it has called on the British government to take all necessary steps
to authorize the therapeutic use of marijuana, while respecting all established scientific criteria.

The British Medical Association has also publicly encouraged the police and the courts to tolerate use of marijuana for
therapeutic purposes. In its report, it says, and I quote:

     Some patients are forced to use an illegal drug to relieve symptoms that are not controlled by existing medication.

The report also says:

          —and that there is sufficient evidence that marijuana can help in certain circumstances.

These were quotes from a report by the British Medical Association.

As a result, following a major scientific research study by the British House of Lords, the British government decided to go
ahead and authorize the first official trials to evaluate the therapeutic effects of marijuana. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is
confident that, three years from now, cannabis will be a prescription drug in Great Britain.

In Quebec and in Canada, well known physicians such as Réjean Thomas and Donald Kilby have already come down
unambiguously in favour of legalization for medical and therapeutic purposes, as have some major dailies. So have the Canadian
AIDS Society, the Canadian Hemophilia Society, which wrote me another letter this morning, and the Coalition des organismes
communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida. All these organizations are calling on the government and members of
parliament to vote in favour of Motion M-381.

Today, I ask the men and women fighting for this legalization to be patient, because I am very confident that they will have all
the support they need in June. Therefore—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but his time is up.

[English]

Ms. Elinor Caplan (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Madam Speaker, as I rise today to
participate in this debate there are several members in the House whose work on this topic should be acknowledged. I would
like to begin by acknowledging the member for London West for the work that she has done in this area since 1997. I would
also like to acknowledge the member for Rosemont, the member from Okanagan—and I regret that I cannot remember the
correct name of the riding—and other members who have spoken to me.

This government is aware that Canadians are suffering who have terminal illnesses and who believe that using medical marijuana
can ease their symptoms and we in the government want to help them.

I emphasize that those Canadians who are struggling to find new and better ways to maintain and improve their health have no
interest in this topic, and to all of those who are healthy I would say that I hope this is a topic that will never be of interest to
them and that they will never need to come forward to ask for this product.

 

   1740

The concern we have is that there are those who are suffering. As the Minister of Health said in the House yesterday, he has
asked his officials to develop a research plan that will include clinical trials for medicinal marijuana, appropriate guidelines for its
medical use and safe access to the supply of this drug. This will allow the government to get the information it needs so it can
share that with Canadians. We want a flexible approach that will help Canadians and protect the health and safety of
Canadians.

In order to truly assess the value of marijuana as a drug it is essential that we have reliable scientific evidence. We know there is
much anecdotal evidence. We heard the member in his opening remarks refer to that evidence, but to date there is no reliable
scientific evidence. Therefore, as I have stated, the Minister of Health has asked his officials to develop a plan that will include
the kind of information gathering, research and development of clinical guidelines for the appropriate use of medical marijuana.

What we want to do is facilitate the development of these guidelines so that those people who are suffering and in need of help
will have access to something that may be beneficial and that may assist them. Many are terminally ill, many are in pain, many
are suffering from symptoms which they believe, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest, could be helped in this way.

We want to get the facts. We want to know whether this is effective. But we also want to be able to use sections of existing
federal legislation to give those people the opportunity to have access to a safe supply of medical marijuana that could be
helpful to them.

The interesting thing that most people would not know is that Health Canada has already explored the possibilities of securing a
medicinal quality source of marijuana for use in its research projects. As well, it has looked at ways of promoting research
within this country. We would provide patients with access to medicinal marijuana in a controlled setting as part of clinical trials.

However, it is important to note, and I particularly address people who have expressed concern about access to the program,
that the current Canadian drug regulatory framework and international control framework create a scheme by which medical
quantities of marijuana could be legally available for medicinal purposes like any other therapeutic drug.

In other words, the distribution of marijuana as a medicine could already be possible provided that the product, the quantity
and the supply, is of good quality and originates from a legal or licit licensed supplier as opposed to an illicit supplier. That is
very important. It is also very important under the existing law that this be used in the proper research context.

The announcement by the minister dealt with the concerns that have been raised by many in this House: access for those who
are suffering and in need, those who need help, but access within a controlled clinical environment of research with appropriate
guidelines to ensure quality and safety and to ensure that the access to the supply of this drug is of good medicinal quality.

I want to state very clearly that physicians would be and must be very involved in the development of these research projects.
The government wants to help Canadians who are suffering, but it wants to make sure they have the very best of advice and
assistance.

While we will be developing a research agenda which will include clinical trials to gather evidence and needed documentation
on both the risks and the benefits of the medicinal use of medical marijuana, we want a flexible approach that will provide
patients with access to medicinal marijuana at an early stage of the research and in a setting that includes the support of qualified
physicians. That is very important.

 

   1745

I heard the member opposite use the term legalizing of marijuana. People should know that we are not talking about the
legalizing of marijuana.

What this does is it creates a research environment where we can do the research, gather the evidence and in that environment,
just as we would with any other drug, make it available to people in a research context. During the research setting, people
would have access to the drug. We would also be sure to develop appropriate clinical guidelines to make sure that it was used
appropriately.

It would allow us to respond in a sensitive and compassionate way to those who are terminally ill, who are suffering and are
coping with symptoms where the anecdotal evidence would suggest that medical marijuana might be helpful to them. We want
to find solutions for Canadians who are suffering. We want to help Canadians. We want to do it in a way that is appropriate.

Therefore, I am pleased to say that I intend to amend the motion. At the appropriate time I will move an amendment to the
motion. I would like to give members notice of what I plan to move.

I will be saying that the motion should be amended by deleting all the words after the word “should” and substituting the
following “take steps immediately concerning the possible legal medical use of marijuana including developing a research plan
containing clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as well as access to a safe medicinal supply and that the
government report its findings and recommendations before the House rises for the summer”.

The member opposite and others have asked are we prepared to put forward a timeline for this plan that the minister has asked
his officials to develop. I say to members of the House as part of this debate that it is the government's intention to do this work
on a rapid basis so that we can have in place the plan to develop the research and give people access as expeditiously as
possible. We know that the House rises for the summer in June. Before that time the minister is making a commitment. We
hope all members will support the amendment. I know that there is support in all parties.

In the time I have remaining, I would like to thank all of the members who have spoken and who will be speaking on this, those
who spoke in private and those who sent notes to the minister letting him know of their support for this initiative. I want to
emphasize again that this is not the legalization of marijuana. This is treating marijuana like a drug that may be helpful to some.
We want to find out if it is. We want to provide the conditions for access in a controlled clinical environment with appropriate
clinical guidelines.

Therefore, I move:

     That, the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “should” and by substituting the following:

          “take steps immediately concerning the possible legal medical use of marijuana, including developing a research
          plan containing clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as well as access to a safe medicinal
          supply and that the government report its findings and recommendations before the House rises for the summer.

I have this available in both official languages and will be presenting it to the chair to further this debate and discussion.

 

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[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The Chair will take the motion under advisement and get back to the House with a
ruling later.

[English]

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Surrey Central.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to private member's Motion No.
381 which reads “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of
marijuana for health and medical purposes”.

I heard the amendment. On the face of it the amendment appears to be okay as long as this is not a backdoor entry for
legalizing marijuana smoking. As long as a firm guideline is established, probably it should be supported.

I have only recently undertaken the role of the official opposition's deputy critic for health. My constituents and my colleagues
are proud to have me speak to Motion No. 381 and express our compassion for the predicament faced by those Canadians
suffering from the diseases and conditions that cause them to turn in desperation to marijuana to ease their symptoms.

Looking through the lens of compassion, my efforts on this issue are dedicated first and foremost toward the thousands of
Canadians who are desperately seeking medicinal therapy for various illnesses. These Canadians admittedly are frustrated at
being in a situation where the only source of relief from their illness comes from smoking a substance that carries many
extremely harmful side effects.

With them I seek less harmful alternatives. It is very important to look through the sympathetic consciousness of others' distress
together with a desire to alleviate it. Therefore, I will continue to be outspoken on behalf of Canadians who are sick and seek
safe medicine.

Historically, the use of marijuana goes back centuries. The remains of a woman from the fourth century were discovered. The
woman had died giving birth. There were marijuana leaves found near her dead body at the site. Apparently she was inhaling
marijuana, relieving her pain all those hundreds of years ago.

To review the pros and cons, let us see how various professionals look at this issue. Medically, THC, the drug in the marijuana
plant, is known to be helpful to treat symptoms of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, epileptic seizures, multiple sclerosis and migraine
headaches.

In the United States there are people who would like to have marijuana moved from schedule 1 substances where it is deemed
to have no therapeutic use, to schedule 2 substances which are useful drugs that can be prescribed by doctors. There are
people who would like to see it treated as a herbal remedy instead of a drug.

Talking of support for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, in a national U.S. survey, 50% of cancer therapists said they
would prescribe marijuana if it were legal and 44% said they are already suggesting it. It is far less addictive and far less subject
to abuse than other drugs used as muscle relaxants, hypnotics or analgesics, according to the survey.

According to Harvard University, the chief concern about the use of marijuana is the effect on the lungs of smoking it. Cannabis
smoke carries even more tars and other particulate matter than tobacco smoke. Water pipes may reduce but cannot eliminate
the side effects.

We are fast approaching the 21st century. We need to look into more advanced research to reap any benefits the drug can
offer without side effects. Perhaps a technological inhalation of cannabis vapours could be developed, an inhaler for example,
or something else which could deliver the contents of marijuana.

The question for us to consider is if it is ethical to deny people who are in pain something that will relieve their pain.

 

   1755

The result of Dr. Corigall's research at the University of Toronto dealing with the effects of canna-binoids on the brain predicts
that there could be a creation of a synthetic form of marijuana. In arguments against legalizing marijuana for medical purposes,
Dr. Corigall says that the dosage of marijuana as an analgesic cannot be regulated and ultimately people should not resort to
smoking it to relieve their pain.

We already know that smoking is bad for us because of all the carcinogens that come with it.

Again on the negative side of the issue, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency official said in 1996 since there are better
medicines with less harmful side effects than marijuana available for the diseases for which it is touted, medical marijuana is a
cruel hoax. It does not help. It does more harm than good.

In another study, the chairman of the International Drug Strategy Institute two years ago said, “suggesting that marijuana be
smoked as a medicine would be like proposing tobacco be used for anxiety and weight loss”.

The National Institute of Health determined that crude marijuana adds nothing to currently available medicine and indeed
creates increased risk to patients. The U.S. National Institute of Health also says that a marijuana cigarette contains a complex
mixture of over 400 different compounds, including carcinogens. This would be a concern for anyone but especially for patients
with chronic disorders or impaired immune systems.

The U.S. National Eye Institute fact sheet on the therapeutic use of marijuana for glaucoma states that none of the studies
demonstrates that marijuana or any of its components could safely and effectively prevent optic nerve damage from glaucoma.
Also, there are about 24 FDA approved drugs for the treatment of glaucoma.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute notes that inhaling marijuana smoke is a health hazard. It has a long list of agents that are
more useful than marijuana.

We need to look as well at the positions put forward by different professionals.

Lawyers have said through the Canadian Bar Association that the government's drug policies are misguided. They are in favour
of decriminalizing marijuana because to continue the government's approach is doing more harm than good. The damage
inflicted by the legal system seems disproportionate to the offence.

In 1993 the Canadian Police Association recommended making simple marijuana possession a ticketable offence, similar to
speeding. The Ottawa police chief said that the risk of things going wrong during marijuana busts are too high.

In 1995, 43,000 Canadians were charged with 62,000 drug offences, and 71% of them were for marijuana. In the past 20
years, 700,000 Canadians were arrested on marijuana charges. Since 1995 in British Columbia, B.C. police have been advised
to stop laying marijuana charges because of court backlogs.

Let us look at what the medical community says. The World Health Organization treats drug abuse as a health issue. In those
countries that treat drug abuse as a health matter rather than a criminal matter, people are not afraid to seek help. Drug abuse
declines and remains at lower levels in those countries.

Providing treatment for drug abusers makes more sense than prison terms. The goal is a healthy population.

With these things in mind, we should study using marijuana for health and medicinal purposes.

In conclusion, I would say what is important to me is compassion. If nothing else works for the diseases and suffering, I do not
see anything as a barrier.

I would expect to have more research done. Through research and innovation, harmless methods may be found to benefit from
the medicinal use of marijuana.

 

   1800

Reform is concerned with substance abuse of any kind, whether it is drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. I warn Canadians
that the Liberal government may use this issue of the medicinal use of marijuana smoking to legalize it through the back door.

As long as it sticks to the amendments and as long as it has a reasonable plan we will probably be supportive.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The amendment presented by the member earlier is in order.

[Translation]

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP): Madam Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating the
hon. member for Rosemont for this initiative and for the role he has played in encouraging the federal government and the
Minister of Health to take steps to allow the legal use of marijuana for health and medical purposes.

I would like to offer my support for this resolution, which states very clearly:

          —the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical
          purposes.

[English]

Many of my colleagues in the NDP caucus have also worked very hard on this issue but I want to acknowledge many in our
party who have come before us and have been quite outspoken on this matter over the years. All of us in our own ways have
tried to find ways to put pressure on the federal government to act on behalf of persons who need to use marijuana for medical
purposes, who need to find some relief from pain and suffering or to deal with the symptoms of chronic or terminal illnesses.

We all know that these people who are speaking out and asking for action are already in a poor physical state and are being
forced to purchase marijuana illegally and with the risk of arrest.

We are here today to join with the Bloc and with all members in the House who support this view to urge the Liberal
government today to take a brave step to overcome the history and associations of marijuana and recognize its value to the
medical community as a part of legitimate treatment options.

We urge the Minister of Health, in the commitment that he made yesterday, to work with the Minister of Justice to ensure that
people who use marijuana for medical purposes are never subject to prosecution.

Today we have before us this resolution from the Bloc now amended by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health
which will require some study and deliberations before we are prepared to indicate our support for the amended motion. Our
major concern will be whether the intentions of the government, as stated today, will in any way inhibit access for those people
who are suffering today.

It is one thing for the government to announce a plan of action to move on this very critical issue. It is another thing for
individuals suffering from AIDS and other illnesses to wait four or five months before they will know whether there will be
access.

 

   1805

It certainly does not answer the question about all those individuals who have been charged as a result of possession of
marijuana for medical purposes, nor does it address the question of whether individuals currently under doctor's orders to
access marijuana will be charged in the first place.

We have many questions that must be addressed. I think for all of us here today our concern is with trying to find a way to
immediately alleviate the pain and suffering of individuals for whom marijuana prescribed on a medical basis is an important
solution, an important alternative.

Members of the Reform Party have presented different positions to us and they are certainly going through a great deal of soul
searching about where they stand on this issue. There are broader issues to be addressed. I think for today it is important for all
of us to say that we must address this issue from the point of view of compassion and we must do it on the basis of a great deal
of urgency.

I do not have to repeat the many arguments that have been presented to the House about the medical value of marijuana. I
think it is important to simply summarize some of the information that has come from the medical and scientific community.

We know from studies that marijuana has been proven to be effective in reducing pressure in glaucoma. It has been proven to
be successful in reducing vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy. It has been clearly identified as stimulating
appetite in patients with AIDS wasting syndrome. It has been found to be useful in controlling spasticity associated with spinal
cord injuries and MS. It has been found to decrease suffering from chronic pain. It has been found to be useful in controlling
seizures in seizure disorders.

Marijuana is also considered to have a potential for a number of other conditions such as emphysema, because it dilates the
bronchioles in lungs and in migraines. It has a wide margin of safety and by all accounts is non-lethal.

The other important factor in all this is that marijuana used for medical purposes does not have many of the side effects that so
many other treatments entail, side effects that sometimes are so serious that patients stop using the medications despite their
suffering.

I refer members to a 1997 editorial in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine which refers to the parallel American
prohibition as “misguided, heavy handed and inhumane”. It also states: “To demand evidence of therapeutic efficacy is equally
hypocritical. The noxious sensations that patients experience are extremely difficult to quantify in controlled experiments. What
really counts for a therapy with this kind of safety margin is whether a seriously ill patient feels relief as a result of the
intervention, not whether a controlled trial proves its efficacy”.

Many scientists who are convinced of the value of marijuana in terms of its medical significance are advising patients to use it
despite the legal risks.

I point to another study quoted in the national news on September 24, 1998: “Science is assembling convincing evidence that
Queen Victoria was not merely catering to royal whim when she used marijuana to numb her menstrual cramps. “Researchers
at the University of California have discovered that cannabis triggers a pain suppressing circuit in the brains of rats, which
demonstrates that the drug is indeed a pain killer”.

The article outlines significant scientific and medical information to lead us to believe that study and research have been done on
this issue. We may be just delaying the need to act by talking about clinical trials and further study before moving as quickly as
possible on this matter.

 

   1810

I remind members of the most recent letter from the Canadian AIDS Society which urged all of us to support the resolution put
forward by the hon. member for Rosemont: “As a result of the illness facing people with HIV and AIDS individuals often suffer
severe nausea and an inability to eat. Wasting, which is a lack of body fat and muscle mass, is one of the leading causes of
death for people with HIV and AIDS. Many of the current drug regimes that individuals are prescribed include strict timetables
of when they can and cannot take the medication as well as whether the medications need to be taken with food or without.
The side effects of these medications often include nausea”.

There is ample evidence of the benefits of marijuana use on a medical basis. There have been significant studies and clinical
trials. I think the time is now for action.

What does the amendment put forward by the government today mean in terms of legal ramifications for people who are either
charged now with illegal possession or are perhaps facing charges? I suggest to the minister that there is provision now within
our Food and Drugs Act for actually ensuring that under the emergency relief program we can ensure reasonable and
responsible access to marijuana for treatment in keeping with the requirements of Canadian law pertaining to the use of
marijuana as a new drug under the Food and Drugs Act and as a controlled substance under the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act.

We will study very diligently the amendment of the government but we strongly support the motion put forward by the Bloc
member and we urge the government to move quickly. We may need more clinical trials, more studies and more research but
we also need to act immediately to deal with the pain and suffering of many individuals for whom there is no other reasonable
alternative.

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, PC): Madam Speaker, the debate today really centres around the word
compassion. I want to read the motion so that the viewing audience has a chance to hear it once again:

     That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana
     for health and medical purposes.

Those are the key words, health and medical purposes. We are talking about a compassionate use of a substance which is
illegal.

The debate today could be taking place on any number of substances used for pain relief in medicine, prescribed by doctors on
a timely basis in cases where they are needed.

Let us imagine for a minute whether we should be debating the use of morphine. Should we not be talking about the use of
codeine, morphine or heroin? What we are talking about is the use of a drug to relieve pain in those who are suffering.

I think that is very commendable. We are not talking about the legalization of the product for recreational or casual use. We are
talking about a drug prescribed by doctors to help patients deal with the threshold of pain and suffering. In many cases we are
talking obviously of terminally ill patients.

The Canadian Medical Association, which I consulted on this, has some interesting observations. I think it is worth putting these
on the record as well. It is not cut and dry. Certain considerations have to be made any time a substance is used for medicinal
purposes. Some of these are outlined very clearly by the CMA.

I quote a letter to me from the CMA which says the CMA has advocated the decriminalization of the possession of marijuana
for many years. I think that position goes back to 1981.

 

   1815

The position of the Canadian Medical Association is:

     That the Canadian Medical Association recommend to the federal government that the jurisdictional control of marijuana
     be moved from the Narcotics Act to the Food and Drugs Act and that all past criminal records related to simple
     possession be erased.

It has a very strong position on the decriminalization of the use of marijuana. However, when it comes to the medical use of
marijuana, it is quite ironic that it has concerns, some of which I will outline.

The CMA is concerned that as a herbal medicine it cannot be patented. It says that exploitation of research is therefore
precluded.

It is concerned that the chemical content can vary considerably from plant to plant.

It is concerned that the standardization and reproducibility of clinical trials is problematic as the plant and its delivery system is
unique and, therefore, it would be almost impossible to conduct blind trials.

Another reservation is that the delivery system is not reliable from patient to patient as the dose received depends upon the
delivery technique.

Another concern is that there is almost no independent quality research available, such as randomized control trials, to guide
decision making on the appropriate and effective medical use of marijuana or the side effects and risks associated with its
consumption.

I think that everyone in this House would agree with some of those concerns. Basically, it boils down to the consistency of the
product being used.

We heard from some members in this House as to whether or not it is really effective. However, if it is working on some
patients and not on others, it is probably not unlike any other drug. Different drugs have different effects on people because of
the chemistry of the human body. I think that is to be expected.

Part of it, probably from the patient's perspective, is what they believe. It is like the individual who wears a copper bracelet for
rheumatism or arthritis. I guess if they believe that it works and they say that it works, it probably does work.

This has been a hotly debated topic. I want to quote from the transcript of a program by Dr. David Suzuki. I think most of us
from time to time have watched—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I am afraid that I must interrupt the member at this point. However, I wish to tell him
that the next time this bill comes before the House he will have approximately four minutes if he wishes to use that opportunity.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you would find unanimous consent to allow the
member to finish the four minutes.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): Is there unanimous consent for the member to finish?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Mr. Greg Thompson: Madam Speaker, the House is being very generous tonight and I appreciate it because we did start
early.

Dr. Suzuki in his program was talking to his listening audience about marijuana and its use. He was talking about a gentleman
who had a sick son. I want to put this on the record because it spells out pretty clearly the effects and how positive it can be
when used for the right reasons.

A gentleman by the name of Lester Grinspoon was speaking. He said:

     My son who in 1967 was diagnosed as having acute lymphatic leukaemia, he was 10 years-old then. By the time he
     reached the age of 13, was beginning to get some of the cancer chemotherapeutic substances which cause severe nausea
     and vomiting. He would vomit for about eight hours or have the dry heaves for eight hours. He would vomit in the car on
     the way home from the hospital and just lie in his room with his head over a bucket on the floor.

 

   1820

That is a very common experience for any of us who have had relatives and loved ones who were sick and receiving
chemotherapy. It is not unusual for that to happen.

He went on to say that he and his wife were at a dinner party and a doctor recommended the use of marijuana for this young
boy. He said:

     On the way home from that dinner party my wife Betsy said “Well, maybe we should get some marijuana for Danny”.
     I'm ashamed to say it, I said “No we can't do that. It's against the law and we don't want to embarrass the people at the
     Children's Hospital who are taking such great care of Danny”. His next chemotherapy was due a couple of weeks later
     and Betsy and Danny smoked in the parking lot outside of the Children's Hospital. I couldn't believe what happened
     because not only did he not have any nausea but he even asked his mother “Could we get a submarine sandwich on the
     way home?” And I then called Dr. Jaffy who was the doctor who was directly involved in Danny's care and said to him
     “Look”, I told him the story, I said “I'm not going to stand in the way of his using marijuana this time”.

The story goes on in quite a bit of detail. Basically what it is saying is that it does work under controlled circumstances. I believe
that the House has to consider that.

Again, going back to the very nature of this bill, we are talking about the word compassion. In relation to other substances out
there let us give it a try under controlled conditions, under doctor's orders. If we could do that we would be prepared to
support this bill.

Ms. Elinor Caplan: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to correct the record. The correct name of the riding I
was referring to is Okanagan—Coquihalla.

[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now
expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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Ottawa Citizen

Fri, 2 April 1999

MR.  ROCK'S HARD HEART
 
Stephen Jay Gould, the renowned Harvard scientist and essayist, wrote not long ago that "It
      is beyond my comprehension that any humane person would withhold such a beneficial
      substance from people in such great need simply because others use it for different
      purposes."

      The substance in question is marijuana.  The people in "such great need" are cancer and
      AIDS patients, who feel that marijuana offers them succour.  Prof. Gould knows whereof he
      speaks: In the 1980s, marijuana relieved him of the nausea from the chemotherapy that
      treated his cancer.

      Similar stories are too numerous to count, yet Canada continues to treat as criminals very
      sick people who use marijuana, a fact which is unlikely to change soon despite the March
      announcement by Health Minister Allan Rock that the government will study medical
      marijuana.

      There are reasons to doubt the sincerity of a government that has happily accepted the status
      quo since taking power in 1993.  For one, more study hardly seems a priority when there are
      already stacks of research on medical marijuana.  There's so much evidence, in fact, that the
      New England Journal of Medicine has editorialized in medical marijuana's favour.  Just last
      month, an 18-month study commissioned by the drug policy arm of the White House -- a
      branch that has for years fought medical marijuana tooth and nail - -- declared that marijuana
      has important medical uses, especially for cancer and AIDS.  One author of the study noted
      that there is "an explosion of new scientific knowledge" about marijuana's useful effects.
      Why re-invent the wheel if Mr.  Rock is serious about change?

      There's yet another reason to doubt our government: the case of Jim Wakeford, who, in
      August, 1998, went to court demanding that he be given the legal right to possess marijuana.
      Mr.  Wakeford has AIDS, and the disease has ravaged his body.  At one point, his weight
      dropped from 140 pounds to 118. But then he discovered marijuana and the drug's ability to
      instill a fierce appetite in users.  Mr.  Wakeford's weight rose back into safe ranges.
      But the law says that in saving his own life as he did, Mr.  Wakeford committed a crime
      repeatedly.  He's a criminal.  Either that or, as Dickens wrote, the law is an ass.

      The judge hearing Mr.  Wakeford's case was sympathetic but he pointed to a law which
      gives the minister of health the power to allow individuals or groups to legally possess
      marijuana.  The judge said Mr.  Wakeford would first have to ask the minister to use that
      discretion before he could argue before the court that the government, in forbidding him
      access to marijuana, had violated his Charter right to "life, liberty and security of the person."
      So Mr.  Wakeford asked the minister.  In fact, he asked six times.  Only once, finally, did
      the health ministry reply.  They said they would look into it.

      Recently, Mr.  Wakeford went back to the same judge.  Seven months had gone by, an
      eternity to a man with AIDS, and the minister had done nothing.  The judge ordered the
      government to explain at a hearing this month just when it might rouse itself to decide on
      Mr.  Wakeford's request.

      This is cruelty made flesh.  Mr.  Rock has the power but he does not use it. Why not? What
      precisely is he waiting for? Mr.  Wakeford's funeral?

      More generally, why doesn't Mr.  Rock, as a modest first step, use his discretionary power
      to exempt the terminally ill from the ban on marijuana? Surely the existing evidence of health
      benefits is strong enough for at least that.  But, really, what if there were no evidence of
      marijuana's medical benefits? What if it only made AIDS patients giggle a little? What
      possible public interest could there be in continuing to arrest them for daring to touch
      marijuana? Is Mr.  Rock worried they might get sick? This is government by Monty Python.

      We have made no secret of our opposition to the ban on marijuana, consumed for whatever
      purpose, which we feel is irrational, invasive, and destructive.  But the refusal to allow even
      terminal patients to try marijuana is so cruel, so pointless, it is, to paraphrase Stephen Jay
      Gould, beyond our comprehension.

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Ottawa Citizen

Thursday 4 March 1999

Canada to test medical marijuana

Rock denies trials are step toward legalization

Julian Beltrame and Norma Greenaway

The Ottawa Citizen

The federal government plans to conduct human clinical tests to determine if smoking marijuana can reduce pain in terminally ill patients, a first step toward legalizing the drug for medical purposes.

Health Minister Allan Rock made the announcement yesterday in the House of Commons, explaining later that it should not be seen as a step toward legalizing marijuana use.

"This has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana," he told reporters.

"This has to do with the fact there are people in Canada suffering from terminal illnesses who have symptoms which are very difficult and who believe (smoking marijuana) can help."

Mr. Rock said there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from individuals suffering from cancer and AIDS who say the drug can alleviate pain and combat nausea, but no strict scientific evidence.

The minister released few details of the tests, but said officials have been asked to set up the clinical experiments, as well as establish what kinds of patients would participate and look into how patients could be guaranteed access to a safe supply of the drug.

A spokesman for the minister said it may take a month or two before officials draw up plans for the clinical tests, determining the size of the tests and the duration.

The government does not plan to change the Criminal Code for the trials, but will use a section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that allows the minister to exempt people from prosecution for special circumstances.

The exemption is a sore point for advocates of medical marijuana use, who have complained that the minister had turned a deaf ear to compassionate applications in the past.

"We made an application 15 months ago for a person with AIDS who was literally starving to death and they did not allow it," said Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy in Ottawa. He said the sufferer -- Jean Charles Pariseau of Vanier -- was advised by his doctor to take marijuana to fight nausea and stimulate appetite.

"If the government is sincere this time and that's a big if, then we're happy with the announcement," Mr. Oscapella added.

"I have a hard time understanding why we are not allowing responsible adult Canadians who have led responsible lives access to this potentially therapeutic thing that may reduce the pain in their lives, that may help them."

Mr. Rock and Justice Minister Anne McLellan had pledged to initiate a national debate of medical marijuana more than a year ago, but yesterday's announcement was the first concrete step toward legalizing the drug for patients.

Pressure has been building on the issue in both Canada and the U.S. for years and last November voters in six U.S. states joined California in approving referendums to legalize medical marijuana use.

Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras plans to introduce a motion in Parliament today urging the government to take every step toward legalizing medical marijuana.

Reaction from opposition members yesterday were mostly positive, although Reform MP Grant Hill, a medical doctor, warned of risks if the testing was seen as a first step down the road to legalizing the drug for general use.

"As a medical doctor, I have treated young people who were habituated to marijuana, whose (school) marks had suffered and whose lives were wrecked," he said. "But I'm open to compassion if marijuana is the only thing that works."

But some advocates of medical marijuana use were not impressed by what they saw as a grudging baby step by the federal government.

"It's a waste of taxpayers' money," said Terry Parker, a Toronto man who says smoking marijuana daily eases the severity of epileptic seizures he has suffered since 1963.

Mr. Parker, 43, who in 1997 won a landmark court decision allowing him to grow and smoke marijuana for medical use, said clinical tests are unnecessary because the drug has already proven its value to people suffering from a range of medical conditions.

Advocates said the drug is effective in reducing spasms for multiple sclerosis sufferers, epilepsy seizures, as a pain killer and in reducing symptoms of nausea which helps patients undergoing chemotherapy.
 
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National Post

Thursday, March 04, 1999

Rock OKs clinical trials of medicinal marijuana

'We want to help' dying patients with cancer, AIDS

Joel-Denis Bellavance
National Post

Allan Rock, the Health Minister, gave the go-ahead yesterday for clinical trials on the medical use of marijuana to determine whether the drug can help ease the pain of Canadians suffering from terminal illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.

The Bloc Quebecois, which has led a campaign to legalize use of the drug for medical purposes, and pro-medical marijuana advocates immediately applauded the move. The Reform party was reluctant to give its support to clinical trials out of fear it might be the first step toward full decriminalization of marijuana.

Mr. Rock said scientists from his department will gather evidence "as soon as possible," and develop appropriate guidelines for the medical use of the drug, as well as provide access to a safe supply.

"There are people who are dying. They want access to something they believe will help with their symptoms. We want to help. Clinical trials would allow us to get research to know more about how we can help," Mr. Rock told the House of Commons.

Grant Hill, the Reform's health critic and a medical doctor, said he is concerned the announcement could open the door to legalized selling of marijuana for recreational use.

"I'm open to compassion, and if marijuana is the only thing that works for a patient, I would accept that," Dr. Hill said.

"[But] as a medical doctor, I treated young people who were habituated to marijuana, whose marks had suffered, whose lives were wrecked. That's my concern."

Mr. Rock was quick to dismiss the idea that Ottawa is moving toward wider legalization.

"This has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana. It has to do with the fact that there are people in Canada now who are suffering from terminal illnesses who have symptoms which are very difficult and who believe that access to medical marijuana can help with those symptoms."

Bernard Bigras, the Bloc Quebecois MP who will announce today a cross-country campaign for the legalization of the drug for medical purposes, said he hopes police officers will no longer charge terminally ill people who use the drug to alleviate their pain.

"This is a step in the right direction, but the battle is far from being won. This is a question of compassion," Mr. Bigras said.

Eugene Oscapella, a founding member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, which supports the decriminalization of many drugs for medical purposes, said Mr. Rock's decision was "long overdue."

Mr. Rock's announcement came more than a year after an Ontario judge ruled it is legal to grow and use marijuana for medicinal use.

In December, 1997, Justice Patrick Sheppard said that Terry Parker, a Toronto resident, was deprived of his "right to life, liberty and security" by being charged with possession of marijuana.

Mr. Parker had been smoking marijuana for more than 20 years to ease the severity of epileptic seizures. An appeal of the judge's ruling has yet to be heard.

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The Globe and Mail

Ottawa approves clinical marijuana trials

Study could lead to legalization for patients

Thursday, March 4, 1999
ERIN ANDERSSEN
Parliamentary Bureau

Ottawa -- The federal government plans to start clinical trials on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana -- a study that could eventually lead to legalizing the drug for people suffering from diseases such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

Health Minister Allan Rock announced yesterday that his department is developing guidelines for the trials to establish clear scientific evidence whether marijuana helps chronically and terminally ill patients manage pain and deal with other symptoms of their illnesses.

The study would examine how the drug should be administered, and how a safe supply could be distributed to qualifying patients.

"There are people who are dying," Mr. Rock said. "They want access to something they believe will help with their symptoms. We want to help." He said it hasn't been determined how long the trials will take or who will participate, but the study is expected to be a partnership between the government and private researchers.

The Health Department has already consulted with the Food and Drug Administration in the United States -- which is also planning similar trials -- about acquiring a supply of the drug for the tests. Making marijuana available to patients by prescription will not require an amendment to the criminal code, a Health Department source said. The drug could be administered under an existing section of the Food and Drug Act, which allows for special access to prohibited substances.

Anecdotal evidence that marijuana alleviates pain in some patients has been growing -- although people continue to face criminal charges across Canada even when they claim to be using it for medical purposes.

That's what happened to Mark Crossley, a 38-year-old Nova Scotia man with an inoperable brain tumour, who said the government's announcement is "long overdue." Mr. Crossley was sentenced last week to four months of house arrest and 18 months probation for growing marijuana in his backyard. He said he received the sentence even after the court was told he smoked the drug to deal with the painful headaches and appetite loss caused by his cancer -- a practice supported in writing by his doctor.

"They've sentenced me to a death, slowly and cruelly," Mr. Crossley said. "I've got three to four years left. [The judge] is not in a position to tell me what I can do with my health."

Mr. Rock said his announcement is not a step toward a widespread legalization of the drug.

"This has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana," he said, but added, "I think Canadians support on a compassionate basis, if someone is dying, access to a substance that could alleviate their suffering."

An Edmonton doctor who specializes in pain management applauded the announcement yesterday, saying clinical trials are needed to set up national standards and study all sides of the issue. Doctor Helen Hays is about to publish a paper on a patient she studied who smoked marijuana to counter the symptoms of a debilitating and painful muscle disorder. "There was a tremendous improvement," she said, while cautioning the drug brings its own side effects and doesn't work for everyone. "We all need to know an awful lot more about it."

Mr. Rock's announcement pre-empts a debate today in the House of Commons of a private member's bill from a Bloc Québécois MP that asks the government to conduct studies on the issue. Stephane Bigras has obtained support for his motion from the Bloc, New Democrat and Progressive Conservative caucuses, as well as prominent medical doctors among the Liberals. But the idea is not said to be supported by the majority of Reform MPs.

Reform health critic Grant Hill, a doctor who is against patients smoking marijuana, said he is worried about the drug becoming too widespread in its use. "Does the minister go down this road knowing how far it will go?" he asked.

But Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, who is also a doctor, said the medical community needs guidelines to resolve the dilemma.

"It's been a shame," Dr. Bennett said, "that when there's something that really works for people they have to use illegal routes to get it."

Doctors can currently prescribe a synthetic form of marijuana, but it is expensive, and many patients complain that oral forms of the drug don't work as well as smoking it.

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Calgary Herald

Thu 04 Mar 1999
News A1 / FRONT

Ottawa to test medicinal use of pot

By: Helen Dolik, Calgary Herald and Southam

The federal government plans to conduct human clinical tests to determine if smoking marijuana can reduce pain in terminally ill
patients, a first step toward legalizing the drug for medical purposes.

Health Minister Allan Rock's announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday was both applauded and panned in
Calgary.

``It's a good idea, and it's about time,'' said Dr. Nady El-Guebaly, medical director of the addictions centre at Foothills
Hospital.

``Let's test it. So far it's been a lot of heated debate and little science. I think it's high time we did a properly controlled trial.''

But Det. Pat Tetley, a city police drug expert who's testified at more than 500 court cases around North America, said
products are available on the market that have the same or better results than you would get from smoking marijuana.

``It's a placebo effect, or at best it's an excuse for a person to continue to smoke it because they've been smoking it all their
lives,'' said Tetley, who's studied marijuana since 1979. ``I think it's absolutely ridiculous to think that we would ever make it
legal medicinally.''

Tetley said: ``My heart goes out to these people who are afflicted with these kinds of diseases, who are suffering . . . But surely
to God we can come up with something better than smoking marijuana to help these people out.''

Rock later explained that it should not be seen as a step toward legalizing marijuana use.

``This has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana,'' he told reporters. ``This has to do with the fact there are people in Canada
suffering from terminal illnesses who have symptoms which are very difficult and who believe (smoking marijuana) can help.''

Rock said there is much anecdotal evidence from individuals suffering from cancer and AIDS who say the drug can alleviate
pain and combats nausea, but no strict scientific evidence. The minister released few details of the tests, but said officials have
been asked to set up the clinical experiments, as well as establish what kinds of patients would participate and look into how
patients could be guaranteed access to a safe supply of the drug.

A spokesman for the minister said it may take a month or two before officials draw up plans for the clinical tests, determining
the size of the tests and the duration.

Rock and Justice Minister Anne McLellan had pledged to initiate a national debate of medical marijuana more than a year ago,
but Wednesday's announcement was the first concrete step toward legalizing the drug for patients.

Pressure has been building on the issue in both Canada and the U.S. for years. Last November voters in six U.S. states joined
California in approving referendums to legalize medical marijuana use.

Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras plans to introduce a motion in Parliament today urging the government to take every step
toward legalizing medical marijuana.

Reaction from opposition members Wednesday was mostly positive, although Reform MP Grant Hill, a medical doctor,
warned of risks if the testing was seen as a first step down the road to legalizing the drug for general use.

``As a medical doctor, I have treated young people who were habituated to marijuana, whose (school) marks had suffered and
whose lives were wrecked,'' he said. ``But I'm open to compassion if marijuana is the only thing that works.''

Advocates say the drug is effective in reducing spasms for multiple sclerosis sufferers, epilepsy seizures, as a painkiller and in
reducing symptoms of nausea which helps patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Calgary pot crusader Grant Krieger, who has multiple sclerosis and smokes the illegal drug to alleviate his symptoms,
applauded the government .

``The cannabis plant is a very safe and effective alternative medicine, which is banned,'' said Krieger, 44, who is organizing a
Compassion Club in Calgary to provide locally grown pot to people with serious illnesses.

Two years ago, Krieger said he asked the federal health department for permission to do a research project and ``they laughed at me.''

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The Toronto Star

March 4, 1999

Marijuana health test backed

Illegal drug to be researched for use by the sick, Rock reveals to House

 By Tim Harper    Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA - The federal government will begin clinical tests of marijuana, the first step
toward establishing a safe, government-supervised supply of pot for Canadians who need it
for medicinal purposes.

Health Minister Allan Rock made the surprise announcement in the House of Commons
yesterday, a day before Bloc Québécois MP Bernard Bigras was to introduce a private
member's motion on the same matter.

According to some estimates, 20,000 or more Canadians would be likely to apply to smoke
marijuana to ease the pain and symptoms of such debilitating diseases as glaucoma, multiple
sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy, AIDS or arthritis.

Canadians who are suffering deserve government help, the health minister said.

The move was applauded by a number of medical organizations and activists who had been
pushing for such action, but it is not expected to have any impact on various court challenges
to the marijuana laws across the country.

``These are people who are dying,'' Rock told the Commons. ``They want access to something
they believe will help with their symptoms.

``We want to help. Clinical trials would allow us to get research to know more about how we
can help.''

In the United States, voters in seven states and the District of Columbia have approved the
medical use of marijuana.

Outside the Commons, Rock told reporters he believes Canadians will support the
government's move.

``This has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana,'' he said.

Dr. Don Kilby, director of the University of Ottawa's health services, said he believes Ottawa
is sincere in its move and hopes it can quickly lead to a government-sanctioned growing
centre.

``I want to make sure I know what my patients are smoking is safe,'' said Kilby, who treats
many HIV/AIDS patients.

``I don't want them smoking just anything.''

Kilby had already unsuccessfully applied to Health Canada for a special provision under
existing legislation to provide marijuana for Jean-Charles Pariseau, an Ottawa man who
suffers from advanced AIDS and wanted the marijuana to alleviate nausea.

Pariseau applauded the move yesterday, but said it was Bigras who spurred the govern ment
into action.

Pariseau said his disease has made it virtually impossible for him to leave his home.

He tires easily, after no more than three or four waking hours, he said.

``Marijuana would help me to forget my pain and make my life longer,'' Pariseau added.

Lawyer Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, a think tank which
studies drug laws, welcomed the move, but said it was long overdue.

He said Rock had the opportunity to help Pariseau 15 months ago and didn't act.

``It has become just plain cruel to deny this drug to dying people who could use this to
alleviate pain and suffering,'' Oscapella said.

Rock had been considering such a move for about a year and he signalled his intention in a
newspaper interview last August when he said he planned to have bureaucrats put the wheels
in motion for clinical tests.

``How the hell can we do a clinical study until it's legal?'' asked Terry Parker, the Toronto
man who won a 20-year fight to use marijuana to treat his epilepsy in December, 1997, The
Star's Jennifer Quinn reports.

Parker said yesterday he is concerned synthetic alternatives to marijuana - which he believes
aren't as effective - might be pushed by the government.

Health Canada officials said independent research is now underway in California but it is not
sanctioned by Washington.

Clinical tests are also underway in Britain, but in some other European nations therapeutic
use of marijuana is already allowed.
 
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Ottawa Citizen
Saturday 16 September 2000
 

                  Man with HIV wants right to
                  import drug

                  Limit on medical marijuana
                  'unconscionable': Vanier resident

                  David Stonehouse
                  The Ottawa Citizen

                  A Vanier man who was one of the first people in
                  the country allowed to grow marijuana to ease his
                  medical problems is now fighting to win the right to
                  import the drug.

                  Jean Charles Pariseau filed a motion yesterday
                  with the Federal Court of Canada asking it to
                  order that he be allowed to bring marijuana into
                  the country.

                  Mr. Pariseau, a 33-year-old who is stricken with a
                  number of medical conditions including HIV and
                  epilepsy, is also asking the court to order Health
                  Canada to stop restricting how much he is allowed
                  to grow himself.

                  In papers filed with the court, he says the federal
                  department gave him permission last year to grow
                  as much as he needed to help him with his health
                  problems.

                  But earlier this summer, Health Canada changed the conditions to allow him
                  to harvest only three mature marijuana plants over six months. He argues that
                  isn't enough to help him cope with a regimen of medications he has to take
                  every day.

                  "I need to smoke four or more grams of marijuana per day to help me ingest
                  my 21 grams of pills. The more marijuana I smoke, the more I can eat and
                  the longer I can keep my weight up and stay alive," he says in an affidavit
                  filed with the court.

                  "Having marijuana is the best help in helping me cope with my illnesses," he
                  wrote.

                  He is also anemic and suffers from an infection by a parasite.

                  In the court filings, he labels the move by Health Canada officials to limit the
                  doses of marijuana he can take as "unconscionable" and says they are
                  forcing him to spend a lot of money for his hydroponic growing operation for
                  too few plants.

                  "I'm almost out of marijuana, virtually broke with debts I can't pay. My
                  cablevision has just been cut off. My hydro bill is almost $300 to grow three
                  plants with lighting that could have grown 85," he said.

                  "This, and the stress of coping with these government officials, is killing me."

                  A court hearing is slated for Thursday.

                  A spokeswoman for Health Canada declined to comment, saying it would
                  be inappropriate to talk about an individual case or a matter before the
                  court.

                  In a brief interview, Mr. Pariseau said the limits Health Canada has placed
                  on him are forcing him to look for an illegal supply.

                  "That means I'm going to have to back onto the street to buy some again," he
                  said after filing the papers.

                  He is also planning to protest Health Canada's decisions on Parliament Hill
                  on Monday when the new parliamentary session opens.

                  John Turmel, a supporter helping with the court battle, said Health Canada is
                  requiring Mr. Pariseau to be available for experiments on other ways of
                  ingesting marijuana on penalty of having his privileges revoked.

                  "If he does not submit to this, they can revoke his exemption. That's terrible.
                  His doctor should decide that. If the kid is happy smoking it and it's helping
                  him get down his 48 pills a day why should he run around looking for a new
                  way?" Mr. Turmel said.

                  They will ask the court to overturn that provision as well.

                  But Mr. Turmel said the most important bid is to get an order allowing
                  marijuana to be imported for medical purposes. "It's legal for him to have it.
                  It's legal for them to grow it in Holland. Why can't he just order what he
                  needs from Holland if he can't grow enough for himself?" he said.

                  "That's the most important one of all for all these people across Canada who
                  need this medicine. Why make them jump through hoops? Just let them
                  order it from Holland cheap."

                  He hopes a recent ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal may help.

                  In July, the appeal court ruled that the law against possessing marijuana
                  violates the rights of sick people who rely on the drug. The court said the law
                  forces the ill to chose between "health and imprisonment."

                  The appeal court upheld a stay on charges against Terry Parker, a
                  44-year-old Toronto man who grows marijuana and smokes three or four
                  joints a day to control his epilepsy.

                  He says it is the only drug that gives him relief from repeated seizures,
                  blackouts and vomiting.

                  The court also rejected the system of formal exemptions for those who want
                  to possess or grow marijuana for medical reasons, ruling that the "unfettered
                  and unstructured discretion of the minister of health is not consistent with the
                  principles of fundamental justice."

                  The court, however, suspended its ruling for a year to give Parliament
                  enough time to deal with the issue.

                  There are 72 Canadians who have been granted permission to possess or
                  possess and cultivate marijuana for medical reasons.
 

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CANADA TO GIVE MEDICAL MARIJUANA CLINICAL TRIALS

Reuters, March 4, 1999

by Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock said Wednesday he  had ordered officials to
develop clinical trials for the medical use of  marijuana and to determine how to grant safe access to the drug.

 Rock said this was not the first step toward the legalization of  marijuana,  but an opposition member of
parliament, physician Grant Hill, immediately  questioned whether it would not lead to more than pain relief.

 Rock, a Liberal, told reporters, "There are Canadians who are suffering  from  terminal illnesses who are in
pain or suffering from difficult symptoms  who  believe that smoking medical marijuana can help with those
symptoms."

 The debate echoed that in the United States, where voters in seven states  and the District of Columbia have
approved the medical use of marijuana  but  have been blocked by the federal government.

 Many lobbying groups in Canada have pushed for the medical use of  marijuana  or for its full legalization, but
opponents argue that the drug causes  harm  and is a steppingstone to harder drugs.

 Hill, the health spokesman for Canada's opposition Reform Party, said he  could accept clinical trials but
added, "It's quite controversial because  it  could lead to other things."

 "As a medical doctor, I treated young people who were habituated to  marijuana, whose marks had suffered,
whose lives were wrecked," he said.

 Rock, who belongs to the left-leaning wing of the ruling Liberal Party,  spent his formative years in the
long-haired, smoke-wreathed 1960s. In  1969  he arranged for former Beatle John Lennon and his wife, Yoko
Ono, to  attend  a peace conference in Ottawa.

 Asked if he had smoked marijuana, the prime ministerial aspirant smiled  broadly, and he refused to answer the
question when pressed later.

 "It has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana," Rock said, adding that  he  wanted to develop scientific
evidence to determine whether anecdotal  evidence of marijuana's benefits could be backed up.

 "What I've asked officials to do is to develop a plan that will include  clinical trials of medical marijuana and
also deal with some of the  difficult aspects of this complex question, including criteria and access  to  a safe
supply of this medical -- or what would be a medical -- drug," he  said.

 Last March, Rock lifted a 60-year-old ban on the commercial cultivation of  hemp, a non-psychoactive cousin
of marijuana.

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Canadian Press (Canada)

Canada: Rock Agrees To Marijuana Trials

3 Mar 1999
 
Author: Jim Brown

  OTTAWA (CP) -- Health Minister Allan Rock has asked his officials to draw up a plan for
clinical trials on the medical use of marijuana -- and to figure out how a safe supply could be
provided to those who might need the drug to ease pain.

  "There are Canadians who are suffering from terminal illnesses, who are in pain or suffering
 from difficult symptoms, who believe that smoking medical marijuana can help with their
symptoms," Rock said Wednesday.    But before the government makes a final decision it
wants scientific evidence, not just   anecdotal testimony, on whether smoking pot can help
relieve pain.

  "Clinical trials will help us develop that evidence in a calm, rational way," Rock said
outside   the Commons.

  "I think Canadians support, on a compassionate basis, if someone is dying, access to a
substance that could alleviate their symptoms."    Various lobby groups and individuals
contend that marijuana can help ease the symptoms of   multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, advanced
AIDs and a range of other ailments.

  Some users have clashed with the law after being arrested for possession, trafficking or
growing pot.  But many convictions have resulted in lenient sentences, and in some cases
absolute discharges that left the person with no criminal record.

  Rock, who has been wrestling with the problem for some time, announced his plan a day
before the Commons was to debate a private member's motion by Bloc Quebecois MP
Bernard Bigras advocating legalization of marijuana for medical use.

  The initiative has attracted two NDP MPs, Nelson Riis and Libby Davies, as co-sponsors.  It
 is slated to be one of the few pieces of private member's business that will come to a formal
vote in this session of the Commons.

  Liberal sources confirmed Rock's timing Wednesday was a matter of political calculation
rather than coincidence.

  "Allan's been talking about this for a long time, he feels strongly about it," said one insider.
"And it's always good to be ahead of an issue."

  It was not clear how long the clinical trials might take, though officials say research projects
 of this kind typically go on for two to three years.

  Only if the trials show marijuana is medically useful would the government go on to the
next   step -- a formal decision on whether to allow full-time legal access to the drug for
medical   use.

  In the meantime, Rock is looking at the possibility of issuing special permission for
individuals to use the drug on a case-by-case basis, whether they participate in the research
trials or not.

  "He doesn't want a restrictive process that would deny access in compassionate cases," said
one senior official.

  Aside from gathering scientific evidence, Rock wants to examine how to provide a safe and
controlled supply of medical marijuana for those who might need it.

  The minister was careful to specify that the trials do not mean the government is moving
toward wider legalization of pot for recreational purposes.

  "I've asked officials to develop a plan for research," he said.  "It has nothing to do with
legalizing marijuana."

  Reform health critic Grant Hill said he favours clinical trials "to look at anything that will
help   people out."

  But he was uneasy that the move might widen into a campaign for legalization of marijuana
for any purpose.

  "As a medical doctor I've treated young people who were habituated to marijuana, whose
marks had suffered, whose lives were wrecked.   That's my concern."   Bigras, speaking for
the Bloc, welcomed Rock's announcement but warned that the minister   shouldn't use
clinical trials as an excuse to postpone a political decision.

  There has to be a way for individuals to get access to the drug on a compassionate basis
while the trials go on, said Bigras.

  Terrence Stewart, chairman of the Canadian AIDS Society, called Rock's announcement "a
great step." But he quickly added the society will keep pressing Ottawa to take the next step
and decriminalize the drug for medical use.

  "Just providing the drugs under a clinical trial is not going to be the answer.  We have to
have   a commitment from the government that they will see it through to the end."

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The Toronto Star

3 Mar 1999

Author: Tracey Tyler, Toronto Star Legal Affairs Reporter

  AIDS PATIENT FIGHTS FOR POT

  But he fears that court battle may be concluding

  Anxious and in failing health from AIDS, James Wakeford feels his chances of getting the
federal government to allow him to use marijuana have just about gone up in smoke.

  Six months ago, a Toronto judge suggested Wakeford apply to Health Minister Allan Rock
for an exemption from being prosecuted for possessing marijuana for medical reasons, an
option available under federal drug laws.

  But after writing eight times to Rock and his officials, the 54-year-old still doesn't have an
answer.

  So Wakeford has returned to court, asking that a judge order Ottawa to not only let him
smoke marijuana, but to supply him with the drug he says stimulates his appetite and reduces
the side effects caused by his medications, such as weakness and nausea.

  ``The government is a black hole,'' Wakeford said in an interview this week.  ``It's my
position that they have no intention of helping me without a court order - and that's what I
intend to get.''

  Wakeford originally turned to the Ontario Court, general division last summer.  He became
the first Canadian to launch a civil lawsuit against the federal government for the   right to
use marijuana for medical purposes.

  Although people with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis have made similar requests, they were
made while defending themselves against criminal charges.

  ``Mine was a pre-emptive strike,'' said Wakeford, who was admitted to hospital twice last
year for extreme weight loss, a near-fatal liver failure and hepatitis contracted through an
intravenous feeding line. ``I've never been charged.''

  He's tried using Marinol, a medication that contains synthetic THC, the active ingredient in
marijuana, but it only made him sicker, he said.

  At the hearing last summer, Mr.  Justice Harry LaForme ruled that Wakeford's constitutional
 rights to liberty and security of the person were, on the face of it, violated by the Controlled
Drugs and Substances Act, which prohibits marijuana use.

  But LaForme went on to conclude that the act didn't undermine the principles of
fundamental justice, because ministerial exemptions were available and Wakeford had yet to
apply for one.

  ``Mr.  Wakeford's terminal illness, its dreadful and painful effects on him physically and
emotionally, and his desire to treat himself effectively and in a manner that allows him relief
and dignity, surely qualify as rights,'' the judge said in his ruling.  ``His choice (to use
marijuana) harms no one.''

  Wakeford's lawyer, Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young, sent the first of several letters
to Rock on Sept.  14, applying for the exemption and reminding him that ``AIDS is a fatal
illness and Mr.  Wakeford does not have the luxury of waiting indefinitely for a response.''

  On Nov.  5, Rock wrote to Wakeford, saying he sympathized with him.

  And on Nov.  18, Rock sent a letter to Young, acknowledging receipt of the request.  Justice
 department officials were giving it ``careful attention,'' Rock said.

  When nothing further was heard by Dec.  17, Young sent a final letter, concluding any
exemption written into the act was meaningless, and went back to court.

  During a brief hearing in Toronto last week, Mr.  Justice Archie Campbell suggested the
case   be sent back to LaForme for consideration.

  No court date has been set.

  Wakeford, a former executive director of the Casey House Foundation, said a court order
forcing Ottawa to give him the exemption could help others who have made similar
applications.

  Young says there have been 12 such applications.

  Carole Bouchard, assistant director of the health department's bureau of drug surveillance,
said she couldn't discuss Wakeford's case because it is before the courts.
 
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National Post

Clinical trials of Marijuana  will not halt arrests of  terminally ill

Law remains the same

 Joel-Denis Bellavance

 Police officers will continue to arrest terminally ill Canadians who  are growing and smoking
marijuana even though Allan Rock, the  Health Minister, has approved clinical trials on the
medical use of  the drug.

 The federal government has not instructed the RCMP to refrain  from laying charges against
patients who use marijuana to fight the  symptoms related to their disease.

 "The law remains the same for now," said Derek King, a  spokesman for the health minister.

 Mr. Rock announced on Wednesday that his officials will conduct  clinical trials on the
medical use of marijuana to determine whether  the drug can help relieve medicinal
side-effects for patients being  treated for terminal illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.

 No timetable has been set yet, but Mr. Rock said scientists will  gather evidence "as soon as
possible" and develop appropriate  guidelines for the medical use of the drug and to provide
access to a  safe supply.

 Eugene Oscapella is a founding member of the Canadian  Foundation for Drug Policy, which
supports the decriminalization of  many drugs for medical purposes. Yesterday he blasted the
Liberal  government for not showing more "compassion" toward terminally ill  patients.

 "This is appalling," said Mr. Oscapella.

 "The word compassion seems to be lacking from the vocabulary of  this government."

 Mr. Oscapella said that Mr. Rock has the power, under section 56  of the Controlled Drugs
and the Substances Act, to exempt any  person from the application of the law.

 "Why doesn't the minister do that?" Mr. Oscapella said.

 
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Seattle Times (USA)

4 Mar 1999

Canada To Begin Studying Marijuana's Medical Uses
 

      Pubdate:
 

      OTTAWA - Canada's health minister has authorized clinical trials to determine if marijuana
      is a useful medicine for people suffering from terminal illnesses and other painful conditions.
      But the minister, Allan Rock, stressed during debate in Parliament yesterday that the decision
      did not mean the government was moving toward wider legalization of marijuana for
      recreational purposes.

      Rock said he also wants officials to examine how to provide access to a safe supply of
      medical marijuana for those who might need it.

      "I think Canadians support, on a compassionate basis, if someone is dying, access to a
      substance that could alleviate their symptoms," he said.

      Proponents say marijuana alleviates a wide range of medical problems, including nausea
      from chemotherapy and pressure on the eyes from glaucoma.

      The debate echoed that in the United States, where voters in seven states and the District of
      Columbia have approved the medical use of marijuana but have been blocked by the federal
      government.

      Many lobbying groups in Canada have pushed for the medical use of marijuana or for its full
      legalization, but opponents argue that the drug is a steppingstone to harder drugs.

      Grant Hill, the health spokesman for Canada's opposition Reform Party, said he could accept
      clinical trials but added, "It's quite controversial because it could lead to other things."
      "As a medical doctor, I treated young people who were habituated to marijuana, whose
      marks had suffered, whose lives were wrecked," he said.

      Rock, who belongs to the left-leaning wing of the ruling Liberal Party, spent his formative
      years in the 1960s.  In 1969 he arranged for former Beatle John Lennon and his wife, Yoko
      Ono, to attend a peace conference in Ottawa.

      Asked if he had smoked marijuana, the prime-ministerial aspirant smiled broadly, and he
      refused to answer the question when pressed later.

      "It has nothing to do with legalizing marijuana," Rock said, adding that he wanted to develop
      scientific evidence to determine whether anecdotal evidence of marijuana's benefits could be
      backed up.

      "What I've asked officials to do is to develop a plan that will include clinical trials of medical
      marijuana and also deal with some of the difficult aspects of this complex question, including
      criteria and access to a safe supply of this medical - or what would be a medical - drug," he
      said.

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London Free Press (Canada)

Fri, 05 Mar 1999

  MARIJUANA DESERVES STUDY

  It's time people stopped thinking of marijuana to get high and consider it the medical aid it   just might be.

  If pot use can ease the pain and discomfort of those suffering serious illness, then it is worthy   of the clinical
tests the federal government has announced it wants to conduct.    This study makes sense because of the
growing need and increasing acceptance of marijuana   as something other than a street drug.  It is estimated
20,000 Canadians would apply to   smoke it, to help offset the effects of illnesses such as glaucoma, multiple
sclerosis, cancer,   epilepsy, AIDS and arthritis.

  Many doctors wants to use the drug, to help offset the nausea common to AIDS sufferers.    In Canada, many
medical groups and the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, a think tank   that studies drug laws, have long
lobbied for the study.

  Seven American states and the District of Columbia have approved the medical use of   marijuana.  Clinical
tests are also underway in California and Britain.

  But a study for medicinal purposes should not be a step toward decriminalization.  Marijuana   should remain
an illegal drug.  Just as a pain-numbing drug like morphine is dispensed in   hospital, neither should marijuana
be seen on street corners.

  Foundation lawyer Eugene Oscapella summed it up best when he said, "It has become just   plain cruel to deny
this drug to dying people who could use this to alleviate pain and   suffering."
 
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Toronto Star

5 Mar 1999

Section: Editorials and Opinion

RELIEF IN SIGHT

  Denying marijuana to desperately ill people in order to keep it out of the hands of   recreational users is both
absurd and inhumane.

  Parliament has finally recognized that.  This week, Health Minister Allan Rock, prodded by   the Bloc
Quebecois, authorized clinical trials to determine the therapeutic benefits of the   drug.

  It shouldn't have taken decades of pleading, lobbying and covert lawbreaking on the part of   doctors,
caregivers and those suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and   other chronic diseases to
win this small show of compassion from Canada's lawmakers.    It shouldn't have taken the federal government
15 months to respond to a clear signal from   the courts.

  In December of 1997, Ontario Judge Patrick Sheppard ruled that ``it does not accord with   fundamental
justice to criminalize a person suffering from a serious chronic medical disability   for possessing a vitally
helpful substance not legally available in Canada.''

  It shouldn't have taken the criminalization of sick people such as Terry Parker of Toronto,   who uses
marijuana to ease his epileptic seizures, or Mark Crossley of Nova Scotia, who   uses the drug to cope with the
headaches caused by his brain tumour, to bring about this   change.

  Rock deserves credit for breaking the logjam.  He wisely decided to set guidelines for the   medical use and
distribution of marijuana before allowing its widespread use.  All that exists   now is anedoctal evidence that it
alleviates certain types of suffering.  Virtually nothing is   known about its side effects.

  The Reform party is warning that Rock is opening the door to the legalization of marijuana.

  The health minister denies that he has any such intention.  But even if his decision leads to   changes in
Canada's drug laws, it would be the right thing to do.

  Sick people should not be punished because healthy people like smoking dope.

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Nelson Daily News (B.C.)

Friday, March 5, 1999
 
  Author: Bob Hall - Daily News Staff

      JURY STILL OUT ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA

      Locals find good and bad in Health Minister Allan Rock's plan to test illegal drug
      Local reaction to federal Health Minister Alan Rock's plan to start clinical trials on the
      medical use of marijuana is, not surprisingly, mixed.  On Wednesday, Rock announced that
      he has asked his officials to draw up a plan for trials and to figure out how a safe supply of
      the illegal drug could be provided to those who might need marijuana to ease the pain.
      "It's a step in the right direction and it's common sense really," said Dustin Sunflower, a
      partner in Nelson's Holy Smoke Culture Shop and a well-known pot crusader.

      "The highest thing that a society can be based on is compassion because that means that
      society cares for people and cares for the sick.  So for the government to deny
      medicinal cannabis is uncompassionate...so it would seem we are heading in the right
      direction if compassion is the highest ideal."

      Nelson City Police Sgt.  Dan Maluta does not view Rock's decision in the same light.  "I
      have a concern because people will get on the bandwagon and say "you see even our federal
      health officials feel that there is some validity to it." They will then think it legitimizes their
      own use for whatever ails them in the broad sense," Maluta told the Daily News.

      Various lobby groups and individuals contend that marijuana can help ease the symptoms of
      multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, advanced AIDS and a range of other ailments.
      Rock said Wednesday that Canadians support the use "on a compassionate basis, if someone
      is dying." The health minister said before the government makes any final
      decision it wants scientific evidence and not just anecdotal testimony on whether smoking
      pot can help relieve pain.

      "I know quite a few people who use it for medicinal purposes in this area," said
      Sunflower.  "These people are sick.  When they get cannabis it could be their next meal or
      their next night of sleep, they don't function as normal human beings without it."
      One local resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis welcomed the federal government's
      initiative.  "I think it's really good for stress and for being able to enjoy a good night's sleep,"
      said the man who asked that his name be kept
      anonymous.  "It helps with pain and the legal drugs I'm on now have side effects and I find
      pot helps with the nausea that it causes.

      " The man, who was diagnosed with the disease 15 years ago, said it may also help take
      away the negative stigma often attached to marijuana.  "Right now doctors and nurses just
      don't want to talk to you about it," he said.  "At least this will open up the dialogue."
      Kootenay-Boundary-Okanagan MP Jim Gouk said he's not making any judgment on the
      decision at this point.  "I don't have a problem with them doing some proper scientific
      determination as to the effect of it," the Reform Party MP said.  "I
      would hope that in doing that they don't limit it to smoking it because my preliminary
      investigation suggests that any medical advantage could be obtained through methods other
      than smoking it.

      There are prescription drugs on the market which contain THC (one of the psychoactive
      elements in cannabis) and are legal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  Gouk
      said he hopes the government looks into other types of similar solutions that do not include
      actually inhaling smoke." "Putting the THC aspect of marijuana aside, smoking is smoking,"
      Gouk said.  "It's pretty hard to promote the
      ingestion of smoke coming off of burning refuse as a health product.

      So if THC can provide relief to people in certain circumstances and you can get all the
      benefits of that through something other than smoking then we should be looking into that in
      this study." Gouk said he has been contacted by a few of his constituents who inquired about
      the potential of legally growing medicinal marijuana.

      The local MP agrees with Rock that many people do have compassion for those who use
      pot to ease the pain of illness.  "I did a survey about the concept of medical marijuana and
      there does seem to be a level of support for it," Gouk said.  "So I think this is the next logical
      step.  You don't rush into something like that, but you don't blindly close your eyes and ears
      to it either."

      Maluta is not convinced.  "What health practitioner would prescribe marijuana, which has
      some 4,000 toxins and other substances in its smoke, to try and cure or help someone would
      be beyond me," Maluta said.  When the federal government's trials
      are complete, Maluta hopes the evidence will support the opposite of what they are intended
      to do.  "I'm hoping that part of what is driving this is that they are going to find from the
      clinical study that no practitioners are going to support actually inhaling raw marijuana in
      order to treat illness," said Maluta.  "It will refute it and then it could no longer be raised as a
      defence in court." While the trials are being planned, Rock said he is looking into the
      possibility of issuing special permission for individuals to use the drug on a case-by-case
      basis.

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