Pot contract up for bids: Medicinal users want variety

July 27, 2006

CP, Toronto Sun (Canada)

People who want to grow pot for the federal government may soon get the chance.

Health Canada's five-year, $5.75-million contract with its current supplier of medicinal marijuana, Prairie Plant Systems, appears to be winding down and the department is preparing to seek proposals from all potential suppliers.

As it does for a wide range of contracts -- from building maintenance to military supplies -- the government will invite interested companies and individuals to submit bids for a pot-growing contract. It will then try to choose the one offering top quality and value for taxpayers.

The process could result in Prairie Plant Systems being selected again, or some other supplier could get the nod.

Some who use the current pot supply are urging the government to shop around.

"What we need to move beyond is the idea of a single monopoly producer of medical cannabis," Philippe Lucas, spokesman for the group Canadians for Safe Access.

"The end users of this product -- Canada's critically and chronically ill -- would benefit from having options."

People on medicinal marijuana respond better to different strains of the drug, Lucas said.

About 280 patients currently receive the government pot, which Prairie Plant Systems grows in an unused section of a hard-rock mine near Flin Flon, Man. Most patients buy 30-gram bags of ground plant buds for $150.

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