Drug company pursues smokeless pot

April 05, 2006

Kevin Connor, Sun Media

Sara Lee Irwin smokes pot to help her cope with her bone cancer and is waiting for the day when there are alternative therapeutic marijuana options so she doesn't have to light up to help with the pain and severe nausea.

Mainstream drugs used to manage Irwin's pain had several side-effects so she needs marijuana, but would prefer not to smoke.

"I'm a working mother and walk with a cane. (Marijuana) has improved my life," said Irwin, a federally licensed medical marijuana patient. "This isn't about fun, it's about function."

Enter Moses Znaimer, chairman of Cannasta Therapeutics and former City TV guru.

For the last two years, his drug company has raised $6.5 million to work on alternative marijuana delivery methods to relieve pain without smoking.

"We are researching ways to get it into the blood system in a more elegant fashion than smoking. We believe these new medicines will have significant potential," Znaimer said.

"Cannasat is a pioneering effort into the therapeutic applications of marijuana. The time has come to let Canadians know that Canada is at the forefront of research into cannabis and access to the medicines derived from it."

There is currently a marijuana pill, but it can take up to two hours to get into a patient's system.

Znaimer said pharmaceuticals use poppies - which can produce opium - to make drugs like codeine and it's time to drop the marijuana taboo.

Canada is one of three countries that legally grow medical marijuana, said Alan Young, a law professor at the University of Toronto.

"Sick people can gain vibrancy and quality of life (with medical marijuana)," Young said.

It is expected to be five years before any new therapeutic marijuana options hit the market.

Cannasat holds a minority stake in Prairie Plant Systems, the country's only legal medical marijuana grower and distributor, which operates under the auspices of Health Canada.

The company is also launching an education campaign to tell Canadians who suffer from diseases, including multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS and arthritis, that they may qualify for the government's medical marijuana program.

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