Medicinal pot may soon be in Canada drugstores

February 18, 2004

CanWest News Service, The Province

OTTAWA -- Medicinal marijuana may soon be available in pharmacies.

Officials from Health Canada met behind closed doors yesterday with pharmacists, medical experts, police and medicinal pot users to discuss access to medicinal marijuana.

'If you wanted the biggest patient concern, it's to be able to get a safe, affordable supply of medicinal marijuana. That's what we need,' said Greg Robinson, who uses marijuana because it alleviates his AIDS symptoms.

Ray Joubert of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacies said that there was a lot of support for bringing marijuana into local pharmacies.

'I think there's growing interest,' Joubert said. 'There seems to be growing support as well.'

Richard Viau, an official with Health Canada's controlled-substances program, said the department has wrapped up a series of consultations on the issue. The findings from those meetings will be part of a series of recommendations to be published later this spring.

Viau expects the proposals to land in cabinet for final approval by the end of this summer.

After that, a pilot project to get marijuana distributed through pharmacies could begin.

However, the process of getting all pharmacies on board could take some wrangling because the provinces are responsible for health care.

'If the pilot proved to be successful, then the provinces and territories would have to look at it and modify their legislation to allow for this to happen,' Viau said.

As of early February, there were 710 medicinal marijuana users in Canada, he said. Many of these are cancer and AIDS patients, who use the drug to alleviate nausea, pain and lack of appetite.

Other issues discussed yesterday included eliminating the red tape between patients and legal access to pot, and disclosing medicinal marijuana users to police.

'It would only seem reasonable that patients would want to avoid having to obtain access through an illegal source which brings with it all its inherent dangers,' said Chris McNeil, who chairs the Canadian chief of police drug abuse committee.

© The Vancouver Province 2004

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