You can grow it or designate someone else to grow it for you ... but you
can't get the seeds

You can legally grow marijuana if you're sick enough, or name a person to
grow it for you, but you can't legally get the seeds under federal
regulations announced Wednesday.

The new rules, to take effect at the end of the month, will make Canada the
first country in the world with a regulatory system governing medicinal
marijuana. But they don't address the key issue of supply.

The federal system will allow people with certain serious medical
conditions to possess pot and cultivate it, or designate a person to
cultivate it for them.

To qualify they must have a doctor's endorsement.

But the system provides no source of safe, tested marijuana for patients
unless they are participating in a research program. Nor does it provide a
source of tested seeds or cuttings to start a crop.

"Right now, so far as I'm aware, there is no legal source of seeds,"
conceded Judy Gomber, director general of Health Canada's office of
controlled substances.

The regulations require doctors to make recommendations on dosage even
though there is no way to know the potency of the pot being used by a given

Doctors are being asked to endorse the use of marijuana in cases where they
expect medical benefits, but federal officials admit there is little
scientific evidence so far that pot actually has medical benefits.

Hugh Scully, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, attacked
the apparent contradictions.

"We recognize that a regulatory scheme for the medicinal use of marijuana
must exist," Scully said in a statement.

"These regulations are placing Canadian physicians and their patients in
the precarious position of attempting to access a product that has not gone
through the normal protocols of rigorous pre-market testing."

A senior federal official in Ottawa acknowledged that the new policy leaves
unanswered questions, especially regarding supply, sale and distribution.

He said such gaps are to be expected in a ground-breaking program and
promised problems will be dealt with as they arise.

"We're doing something that hasn't been tried before," he said.

Some merchants in Vancouver and elsewhere are openly selling seeds by mail
order, but this remains illegal.

Health Canada had hoped to obtain a supply of tested seeds from the U.S.,
but negotiations with U.S. authorities have proven unsuccessful so far.

The department now has decided to obtain seeds seized by Canadian police
forces in drug busts.

A first shipment of the confiscated seed is on its way to Prairie Plant
Systems of Saskatoon, the company contracted to grow pot for the federal

The shipment was confirmed in Ottawa on Wednesday and was expected in Flin
Flon, Man., within days, said company president Brent Zettl in an interview.

The firm is expected to deliver standardized and tested pot next year.

Newshawk: Herb
Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jul 2001
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2001
Author: Dennis Bueckert