But Strain Too Much Trouble To Grow

A strain of government-certified marijuana is extremely potent but difficult
to grow, and may eventually be abandoned as too much trouble, officials say.

The flowering tops or buds of the strain, grown for Health Canada in a
vacant mine section in Flin Flon, contain between 20% and 25% THC, the most
active ingredient of marijuana, laboratory results show.

American tests on marijuana seized by U.S. police forces suggest ordinary
street dope averages about 5% THC, with sinsemilla -- considered the
champagne of weed -- averaging about 10%.

But the highly potent Flin Flon strain -- one of two official strains that
together produced a crop of 244 kilograms last fall -- is anemic and tough
to grow successfully.

Scientific Proof

"We don't want high-maintenance plants," said Cindy Cripps-Prawak, chief of
Ottawa's medical marijuana program. "It's still unclear to me whether or not
that is going to be the strain we're going to continue with."

The second strain is producing a respectable THC content as well, between
13% and 18% in its buds. Those levels are more in line with the needs of
clinical trials, said Cripps-Prawak.

"By and large, the researchers have told us they're interested more in the
lower-range plants, the lower-range THC content" of about 15% or less, she
said from Ottawa.

Health Canada has said it will not make any of its marijuana available
directly to needy patients because it first wants to see scientific proof
about whether the drug is effective.

Instead, patients approved by Health Canada must either grow their own
marijuana or have someone else grow it for them.

If Health Canada agrees to abandon its high-potency strain, it will be
another setback in a problem-plagued project to grow standardized Canadian
marijuana for medical trials that will determine whether the drug offers any
benefits -- such as pain relief -- to the chronically ill.

Cripps-Prawak said the company will use the third reserve strain if a
decision is made to abandon the high-potency strain.

The department has withheld payments from Prairie Plant Systems for not
providing a placebo product and for failing to deliver the contracted 370 kg
last year, she added.

The company is currently testing blending procedures -- mixing buds, leaves
and small twigs -- to produce five different grades of marijuana with
differing potencies.

None of the government-approved marijuana has been sent to researchers yet
pending approval of their proposals by the Canadian Institutes of Health

Pubdate: Mon, 21 Apr 2003
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Contact: editor@wpgsun.com
Copyright: 2003 Canoe Limited Partnership
Website: http://www.fyiwinnipeg.com/winsun.shtml