Lobby group wants government out of medical marijuana business

Lobby group wants government out of medical marijuana business
May 31, 2011 Dieter MacPherson

by BJ Siekierski

The Canadian government shouldn’t be in the business of selling marijuana, a new non-profit organization calling itself the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

The new association hopes a nation-wide dispensary program will eventually replace the medical marijuana access program currently run by Health Canada. Because to date, it argues, the government-run system has been ineffective.

Courts have also supported this opinion, said CAMCD director Rade Kovacevic.

“Over the last decade, the courts have consistently ruled that the federal government’s medical marijuana program is not meeting patients’ needs,” Kovacevic says. “The most recent case — on April 11 in Ontario Superior Court — once again found the government’s program unconstitutional.”

Dispensaries, he continued, have been filling that void.

The group says that Health Canada’s medical marijuana access program has many inefficiencies including: wait times of up to nine months, as compared to two to 10 days for dispensaries; a 33-page form, as opposed to a one- to eight-page form at dispensaries; and a lack of non-smoking options, such as baked goods, butters, and oils.

The CAMCD statistics show that since Canada’s first dispensary opened in Vancouver in 1997, more than 5,000 doctors have referred more than 20,000 patients to dispensaries. This includes patients with conditions including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, cancer, arthritis, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.

The government-run medical marijuana program has, as of January 10, 2010, served 4,884 patients referred by 2,373 doctors, the group said.

The CAMCD directorate, which also included co-president Marc-Boris St-Maurice and board member Rielle Capler, said it wants to project a professional image that will it to better negotiate a “legal grey zone.”

“We will be inviting input from law enforcement, patient and health-care provider groups, different levels of government, and other stakeholders, to seize this opportunity in regulating medical cannabis dispensaries,” Kovacevic said.

Together, they also stressed the positive economic benefits a switch to dispensary distribution would have in terms of job creation and reduced health-care costs, since it would continue to come at “no cost to taxpayers.”

In terms of approaching political parties, however, spokesperson Adam Greenblatt told iPolitics they don’t want to make it a partisan issue; the goal is to help those in need, not to start an ideological battle.

Throughout the press conference, the group frequently used the word “medication” instead of saying medical marijuana.

The federal government doesn’t sell Prozac or aspirin, St-Maurice said.

“There’s no reason why they should be the ones in charge of distributing this product.”

© 2011 iPolitics Inc.



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