Government-Produced Medicinal Marijuana May Be Harming Users, According To A
Patient Rights Organisation.

A recent test conducted by Canadians For Safe Access reveals that the quality
of medicinal grade cannabis produced by Health Canada could seriously
compromise the existing health of patients with chronic medical conditions.

Several patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other
terminal or chronic ilnesses and diseases presently use the cannabis, which
Health Canada began distributing in late August.

The CFSA's findings raise serious questions about the quality and safety of the
cannabis, produced by Prarie Plant Systems. The test results showed that the
cannabis contained significant amounts heavy metal contaminants, such as lead
and arsenic. Although the cannabis is sterilised through irradiation, the
government sample showed significant levels of bacteria and fungus-producing
micro-organisms, known as colony forming units. The amounts were 10 times
higher than those found in a sample of privately grown organic cannabis.

Philippe Lucas, director of the CFSA and medicinal cannabis user, believes that
the federal government has been neglectful in implementing safe cultivation
methods and in providing a more secure source of therapeutic cannabis for
patients

Lucas emphasised that the government's use of irradiation on their cannabis was
hazardous, and that its reasons for doing so were suspect.

"The few studies that suggest that gamma radiation is safe have been done by
the U.S. Atomic Agency, and they've been heavily disputed," Lucas said. He
added that irradiation is legal in North America and is commonly used on
imported products such as spices.

Krista Apse, media spokesperson for Health Canada, said that the federal
government follows stringent safety and manufacturing guidelines, and that it
knows exactly what is in their product. Apse said that the CFSA's test results
and claims are questionable, as the organisation is unwilling to reveal who
conducted their testing.

"The only thing that we can do at this point is seriously question these
results, because the organisation is totally unwilling to reveal the source of
the product, who undertook the testing of the product [...], when the testing
was done, and under what conditions the testing was done," Apse said.

Apse was unable to say whether or not the federal government conducted
irradiation on its medicinal cannabis. But she did deny the CFSA's claim that
chemical phosphorus fertilizers, which have a potential for radioactivity, were
being used on the plants grown by PPS.

"As far as I'm aware, there are no pesticides that are being used on that
particular product," Apse replied, and again stated that the source of the
CFSA's government sample made the feasibility of their claims doubtful.

Of particular issue with the CFSA are government guidelines for the levels of
THC allowed in medicinal cannabis. THC, the narcotic agent in cannabis, has
been set at a maximum of 10 per cent. To keep THC levels at or below this
level, the CFSA claims that the government has adulterated its product by
including the dried plant buds with copious amounts of stem and lower plant
leaves.

Lucas pointed out that the result of this is that patients must smoke more
government-produced cannabis to get adequate relief from their symptoms. This
significantly increases their likelihood of experiencing side effects from
increased medicinal use, as well as their exposure to dangerous compounds in
the government cannabis.

Hillary Black, co-founder and director of the B.C. Compassion Club Society, is
angry about these effects.

"I think it's atrocious. I mean, once you agree to receive [PPS] cannabis
you're not allowed to exercise your right to procure your marijuana from
another source. So, once you're on the Health Canada wagon, you have to stay on
it," Black said.


Pubdate: Mon, 22 Sep 2003
Source: Peak, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Peak Publications Society
Contact: letters@mail.peak.sfu.ca
Website: http://www.peak.sfu.ca/