Health Canada Announcement of Interim Cannabis Distribution Program Met with Protests, Resignations, and Reassignments Unworkable
July 15, 2003 - The interim cannabis distribution plan is unworkable and was made in bad faith, states Canadians for Safe Access (CSA), a medicinal cannabis patient's-rights organization.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), which has long advised physician's not to fill out the forms necessary to access Health Canada's program, has now also recommended that they not participate in the distribution of therapeutic cannabis until further research has been done on this benign herb, effectively rendering the Health Canada plan unworkable. However Health Canada recently cut the funding to the Community Resource Institute of Toronto's HIV/AIDS research protocol, one of only 2 federally approved therapeutic cannabis research projects, while Health Minister McLellan herself continues to state that more research into marijuana is necessary.
The contradictory and counter-productive approach taken by Health Canada has resulted in the resignation Dr. Gregory Robinson (416-485-7043) yesterday, one of only 2 patient-advisors on the Office of Cannabis Medical Access (OCMA) Advisory Committee. Dr. Robinson noted "a continuing and disturbing trend to forgo any consideration of key stakeholders in policy decisions, and obvious inconsistency in stated government goals set out for medicinal marihuana in Canada." When OCMA Director Cindy Cripps-Prawak was contacted to comment on this apparent inconsitency, CSA learned that she no longer holds that position and is currently being replaced by Valerie Lasher, who until this week oversaw the very committee from which Dr. Robinson has just resigned.
Health Canada and the Office of Cannabis Medical Access are endangering the health of critically and chronically ill Canadians through continued incompetence and a lack of experience and understanding into the production, distribution and research of therapeutic cannabis. Dr. Robinson echoed these sentiments in his resignation letter to Health Minister McLellan: "no longer have faith in your ability to understand compassion for seriously and chronically ill patients. Further, I do not trust in your ability to provide leadership on this portfolio."
CSA would like to see the decision to use therapeutic cannabis kept between a health care practitioner and a patient, and encourages Health Canada to decentralize this program and leave the distribution of this medicine to those who best understand it: Canada's network of legitimate users, cultivators and distributors. "Compassion societies are currently helping more people and producing more significant cannabis research than the expensive and much-maligned Health Canada program," says CSA acting-Director Philippe Lucas, noting that some physicians are already asking Health Canada to send government cannabis to compassion clubs, who alone have the necessary experience, expertise, and security measures in place to ensure safe and effective distribution.