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OTTAWA -- In a bid to boost the availability of pot, the feds have softened
medicinal marijuana rules.

Health Canada announced yesterday it's OK to pay a licensed grower for
their weed.

And the department also cut down on the red tape in the application
process. It now only requires a patient to obtain a recommendation from one
medical specialist - not two.

Health Canada spokesman Catherine Saunders said the move responds to an
Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in October that criticized the federal
medicinal marijuana program for making it too difficult to get access to pot.

By striking down rules that require a licensed grower to provide medicinal
marijuana for free, Saunders said Health Canada hopes more people might be
willing to cultivate the crop.

"It might make it more available when you compensate the licensed grower,"
Saunders said.

One local medical marijuana advocate, who until recently worked with a
"compassion club" providing marijuana to the sick, said he doubts the
change will alter how most medical growers operate.

"A lot of suppliers had already been getting their clients to invest in the
grow operation, since they couldn't charge fees," said Munir Ahmad.

"Cutting the red tape will help a bit - maybe there will be more people
applying to grow, now."

But Ahmad said there are other roadblocks making it very difficult to
supply medical marijuana.

"You can't get insurance for the crop and the equipment, for one thing," he
said. "And applying for an annual licence renewal can take you six months."

Saunders said there are no changes to the rule that licensed growers can
only provide pot to one user and a maximum of three people can pool their
growing resources.

Det. Clayton Sach of the Edmonton police anti-grow-op "Green Team" said
he's pleased the feds are still limiting supply. But he also doubts the
rule changes will affect the activities of either medical growers or
criminal traffickers.

"If you're growing this stuff to make money, are you going to go through
the hassle of applying for a licence? No way," he said. "If you've got some
and a friend who's sick is asking for it, are you going to wait for your
licence before you give it to him? I doubt it."

Pubdate: Tue, 09 Dec 2003
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2003, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Contact: letters@edm.sunpub.com
Website: Under Construction fyiedmonton.com