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Government Swamped With Bids To Grow Marijuana

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May 28,00
The Ottawa Citizen
By Jack Aubry
The title of Canada's official marijuana pusher is being hotly contested this month from coast to coast.
Ever since Health Canada released the terms of a five-year contract it plans to give a Canadian supplier of marijuana this summer, requests for more information have been coming in like green buds in the spring.
Potential dope growers include McGill and Guelph universities, SNC-Lavalin, GW Pharmaceuticals, British Columbia's Ministry of Forestry, the village of Masset, B.C., and something called the Molecular Delivery Corporation in California.
In total, the department has received 195 orders for its 65-page information package, at a cost of more than $50 a request, from potential bidders for the contract, estimated by some at around $5 million.
The contract would see the production of 100,000 cigarettes and 85 kilos of marijuana in the first year. The weed has to be grown, cultivated, dried, prepared and delivered to the government. The marijuana will be used for clinical research trials to gather scientific evidence on whether it's safe and effective for patients to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Suzanne Joly, of Lavalin, was quick to dismiss the engineering firm's interest, saying the large Quebec corporation receives bidding packages for all federal contracts.
GW Pharmaceuticals, of England, which grows marijuana for its own government, has been sent more information and already has had its facilities visited by federal government officials.
David Dunphy, of Green Wonder Gardening Inc. in Dartmouth, N.S., says his company's bid is almost ready. He acknowledges he has some experience growing "weed" in British Columbia and promises to deliver quality marijuana that is just as good as "B.C. gold."
Dunphy, who currently grows cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, said the marijuana would be grown indoors, allowing total control of all variables such as humidity and temperature.
Clinton Mutch, a spokesman for Masset's economic development office, says the village of 1,400 is looking to diversify its economy since fishing and logging in the area are drying up.
Brian Bender, of the Alfred College of the University of Guelph, said the agriculture university is still looking at putting in a bid before the June 6 deadline and is looking for partners such as McGill.
"We have the location and the expertise but the time is limited to put in such an extensive bid. It would be good for our college in terms of prestige but Idon't know if we have enough time," said Bender, who estimates security requirements would cost at least $225,000.
He said the college's location in Alfred, near Ottawa, is an ideal place to grow marijuana considering how close it is to the RCMP headquarters, Health Canada and the Medical Research Centre.
The government is calling for security cameras, infrared sensors and barbed wire fences as well as personnel who have no record since 1985 of any drug offences in Canada or any other country.
Hull lawyer Pierre Bourget, who is putting together a bid for a hydroponics equipment firm in Gatineau, said he has heard through the grapevine that "guys in the Hull jail" have been looking at making a bid.
"There chances aren't very good but it shows you how it has people talking," said Bourget.
The B.C. Ministry of Forestry is backing away from making a bid because it was decided there were too many "pitfalls."
"Already the internal jokes were starting around here, like having to hire someone named Bud," said Anthony Willington at the ministry's Surrey Nursery.
He said among the pitfalls was the potential for embarrassment for the province's politicians, turning the ministry into "a laughingstock."

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen