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Government-Grown Medical Marijuana Can't Meet Needs Of Patients: Lawyer

Herb Fellow

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TORONTO - Lawyers for Canadian users of medical marijuana who want Ottawa to ease restrictions on where they get their pot wrapped up their case Wednesday by telling a Federal Court judge that government-approved marijuana doesn't compare to higher-quality strains available on the street.

Patients ought to be able to pick their own grower, said lawyer Alan Young, who accused Ottawa of rushing into drafting a program in 2003 that ultimately forced patients to use a substandard product - a violation of their constitutional rights.

"When the dust settles, what you're left with is a government simply decreeing that this is the way you are going to get your medicine," Young said.

"The government doesn't have carte blanche."

But since launching its controversial medicinal marijuana program, Health Canada has significantly improved the quality of its marijuana compared with earlier batches, meaning the case against the government doesn't stand up, said Health Canada lawyer Christopher Leafloor.

The applicants in the case haven't tried the most recent batches of cannabis grown by the contractor Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), which is based in Flin Flon, Man., Leafloor said.

"Our position is that you can't really take seriously their claim that the PPS product isn't good enough in terms of strength when they haven't even tried it."

Wednesday's hearing marks the procedural culmination of a three-and-a-half year process which Young hopes will eventually give experienced cannabis growers the opportunity to supply products specifically tailored to the needs of medical users.

Federal Court judge Barry Strayer could issue a ruling by the spring, he added.

The case also has implications on the way the government drafts and implements official policy, said Young, who is also a professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

Under the current Health Canada guidelines, users of so-called medical marijuana can either grow their own pot, have someone grow it for them or buy it from Health Canada. However, growers can only supply marijuana to one patient at a time.

Initially, the case centred upon 30 applicants who wanted to buy pot from a husband and wife who ran their own growing operation, said Young.

Source: The Canadian Press
Copyright: 2007 The Canadian Press
Contact: Jered Stuffco, The Canadian Press
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