Health Canada Cannabis Weak, Non-Organic, and Potentially Unsafe;
Medical Users Deserve Better, Says Canadians for Safe Access
Sept.15, 2003: Two weeks ago Health Canada began supplying cannabis to a handful of licensed medicinal users. As a public health initiative, Canadians for Safe Access (www.safeaccess.ca) - a grassroots, patients' rights organization has tested a sample of the Health Canada cannabis for safety and potency. In order to get a balanced assessment, CSA also tested a comparative sample of organic therapeutic cannabis cultivated by the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (www.thevics.com). The results of these tests are disconcerting, though not entirely surprising.
CSA was appalled by the appearance of the supposedly medical-grade
product [i]. In order to meet the arbitrary Health Canada requirement that the cannabis not exceed 10% THC, Prairie Plant Systems the federally appointed cannabis cultivator has combined the flowering tops of their plants with the stems and lower leaves. This diluted product is ground up for the purpose of homogeneity, and then sterilized using gamma irradiation. This technique remains so controversial due to safety concerns that it has never been used on foodstuffs in North America .
Furthermore, CSA has concerns about the use of chemical phosphate fertilizers in the cultivation process itself, as these have been linked to the development of carcinogenic compounds in food and tobacco [iii]. Heavy metal testing has revealed that levels of arsenic in the government sample more than double that of the VICS cannabis ; higher levels of lead were also detected. Biological testing has revealed that although both samples appear to be free of biological contaminants, the irradiated Health Canada product had 10X more colony forming units that the VICS organic cannabis.[iv]
"Considering that this is supposed to be a medicine, it's negligent that safer cultivation techniques weren't employed. Our government is spending over $5 million dollars to produce cannabis that couldn't hold a candle to the average street marijuana," says Philippe Lucas, Director of the Canadians for Safe Access and a legal user of medicinal cannabis. "Sadly, this poor-quality product will be used in Health Canada's anemic research program. This is yet another sign of the total disregard being shown for thousands of critically and chronically ill Canadians who need immediate access to a safe supply of therapeutic cannabis."
Canadians for Safe Access feels that Health Canada and the Office of Cannabis Medical Access has completely mishandled this important program from day one, a sentiment echoed by the courts and the Canadian Medical Association. Meanwhile, Canada's network of compassion societies continues to help over 5000 Canadians gain access to a safe and diverse supply of therapeutic cannabis at no cost to the taxpayer. Unlike the Health Canada program, distribution through these clubs is safe, affordable, and has a high degree of support from both therapeutic users and the public.
"It's high time for Minister McLellan to acknowledge Health Canada's total failure and ineptitude in its handling of therapeutic cannabis research, distribution, and cultivation," states Lucas. "Canada's critically and chronically ill deserve much better from Health Canada; we need a safe and affordable supply of medicinal cannabis right now.