Tuesday, November 07, 2006


by Kevin Brooker, (Source:Calgary Herald)
Regional News

06 Nov 2006

"Hey, any of you guys ever seen government weed?"

Well, I've heard a lot of things at middle-aged cocktail parties, but never that. It was a "Yup," he continued, pulling out a tightly rolled joint ( a new definition, I suppose, for cancer sticks ), "it's 100-per-cent legal, federally approved dope, delivered under seal in a foil pouch. By Purolator."

With that, he fired it up. Just because he was at a party didn't mean he could go without his medicine.

The odour of the 1970s soon filled the room. Not because I haven't smelled it since then, but because the weed itself had the peculiar atmosphere of marijuana from the era before North American hippie science worked its cultivational magic. It had all the earmarks of what the kids nowadays would call shwag, pure shwag.

So this is the stuff I read about, the roundly criticized pot grown by Prairie Plant Systems Inc. deep in a mine at Flin Flon, Manitoba. This "biosecure facility" -- presumably superior to a basement in Chestermere Lake -- specializes in growing a strain it calls MS-17/338.

According to the federal website, one of the goals of the program is to create a completely consistent profile from plant to plant, which any botanist will tell you is the death knell for achieving maximum potency.

What's worse, the feds mill the final product, ensuring the mostly inert stem portions will dilute the dosage. ( And contribute to a "light weigh," as any baggie purchaser on the street would grumble ).

"Yeah, it's pretty weak," Bud noted. "It's supposed to test out to about 10 per cent THC, compared to 30 per cent for good quality hydroponic from your neighbourhood dealer. But all that matters is it works. It kills the nausea from chemo and gives me an appetite. The plant's a miracle that way, and even the feds can't stomp that out of it."

Then, Bud pulled out his government ID card for the medical marijuana program, which we all agreed looked curiously like a 1970s driver's licence, the sort of document you could forge in about 30 seconds.

"Trust me, though," said Bud. "Nobody's going to do that. You don't want to be on this program." To legally qualify, Health Canada requires that the patient's disease must be categorized by an approving doctor as "grave and debilitating."

Bud's card specifies he is eligible to purchase up to 120 grams a month, though he doesn't necessarily order as much as he could. Each gram costs $5, and it's all cash, like any weed merchant.

Neither government nor private health plans will contribute to it. Thus, some ill but impoverished patients have found themselves behind on their payments, and have been ejected from the program.

That's just one more reason why the recent Grant Krieger court decision is so important. Krieger was simply growing a few plants to alleviate his own suffering with multiple sclerosis, and to share with others of his kind.

To criminalize his activities, and that of numerous other cannabis compassion clubs who provide quality marijuana product to patients, is simply wrong.

It has been reported that, of all the Canadians who qualify for federal weed, 85 per cent of them don't bother, and continue to buy their medicine on the black market. Thus many pot activists expressed dismay that Prairie Plant Systems recently received a one-year extension of their government contract.

Meanwhile, in a poll released last week, 93 per cent of Canadians surveyed approve of allowing medically qualified patients to use marijuana legally.

One would hope the Harper government is paying attention. But having recently chopped their entire $4 million budget for medical marijuana research, the signs don't look all that promising, especially if it ever earns a majority.

"This card," says Bud, "is only good for one year. I'm afraid that when it expires, there may not be another."