EDMONTON -- Despite two high-profile resignations from the federal
government's medicinal marijuana program, Health Minister Anne McLellan
said work will continue on what could be the most comprehensive cannabis
research in the world.

The department's medical marijuana program seems to have been gripped by
chaos after the departure of its boss and a committee adviser.

"We will continue to push ahead with the research and the clinical trials,"
said McLellan.

"We will share the results, not only obviously with Canadians but I think
globally. The clinical trials we'll do will probably end up being some of
the largest ever done anywhere."

Cindy Cripps-Prawak left her job as director of the Office of Medical
Access last week, two days after the department introduced a plan to
distribute medical marijuana through doctors' offices.

The interim plan was introduced in response to an Ontario court ruling that
patients had to be given some legal means of obtaining the drug and has
been criticized with equal vehemence by doctors and patients. The Canadian
Medical Association has strongly advised doctors not to participate.
However, a government spokeswoman has said Cripps-Prawak's departure was
planned months ago and had nothing to do with the new plan.

Meanwhile, Dr. Greg Robinson, who is an AIDS patient, resigned from Health
Canada's advisory committee because of what he described as inconsistencies
in the access program.

Robinson has said he was upset over the termination of a study by the
Community Research Initiative of Toronto into the use of cannabis as an
appetite stimulant.

The organization had already spent about $800,000 of a $2-million grant
before funding was cut in March just as clinical trials were to begin.

McLellan herself has admitted to having some worries about supplying pot to
patients.

"My concern, as the minister of health, is if in fact you have a program on
the basis of medicinal benefit, you have to prove the medicinal benefit,
and that's why we have to do the research on the clinical trials, as we
would expect with any other drug, product or therapy." -- Edmonton Sun


Pubdate: Sun, 20 Jul 2003
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2003 Winnipeg Free Press
Contact: letters@freepress.mb.ca
Website: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/