Government "Medicinal" Grow-op Located in One of Canada's Most Contaminated Regions
Oct.1, 2003: Despite an independent test by Canadians for Safe Access (www.safeacess.ca) indicating elevated levels of heavy metals such as arsenic and lead [i] on the Health Canada cannabis being cultivated in an abandoned copper and zinc mine in Flin Flon Manitoba by Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), neither Health Canada nor PPS has acted to reassure Canadians that this product is indeed safe.
When repeated calls to PPS went unreturned, CSA conducted research to assess the possible cause of such heavy metal contamination. We were shocked to learn that due to the extensive mining and smelting that has taken place in the region over the last 80 years, Flin Flon is considered one of the most contaminated regions of Canada. According to Carol Ptacek, a researcher with Environment Canada's National Water Resource Institute, water near an abandoned mine located outside of Flin Flon Manitoba has some of the highest levels of metal contamination in Canada, if not the world. [ii]
Furthermore, elevated levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and copper have long been detected in soil up to 75 kms from the site of the former smelter [iii]. According to MineWatch Canada, "the sheer size of the contaminated area in Flin Flon makes it impossible to remediate. In particular, there is a large volume of tailings that blow in the wind, and the metal content (copper, cadmium and lead) makes it difficult for vegetation to establish. Community concerns have
historically not been adequately addressed, and much information, including that collected by Health Canada (e. g., toxic metal levels in blueberries) has not been made available to the residents of Flin Flon." [iv]
And from a Manitoba Conservation report: "Air pollution at Flin Flon near Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting continues to exceed provincial air quality objectives, with no noticeable changes from previous patterns·Records also show that, in Flin Flon, levels of particulates, and concentrations of lead and arsenic, sometimes exceed provincial objectives and guidelines." [v]
A past interview conducted with PPS President Brent Zettl indicates that the water source used by PPS is drawn from a nearby lake, and that the growing medium for the cannabis is enriched local outdoor soil [vi]. If this is the case, this could well be the source of the reported contamination.
Philippe Lucas, Director of Canadians for Safe Access and a legal user of therapeutic cannabis, feels that Canadians deserve immediate answers to the following four questions: 1) Was Health Canada aware that it was cultivating medicine in one of Canada's most contaminated regions? 2) Has PPS carried out regular heavy metal and radon [vii] testing of its product, soil and water throughout the 3+ years that it has been growing cannabis in this mine? 3) If these tests were conducted, have they ever indicated elevated levels of heavy metals or radon? 4) In light of CSA testing and the fact that at least two legal recipients of this product have stated that it made them physically ill and actually sent the product back to Health Canada, when will Minister McLellan and Prairie Plant Systems begin to take seriously the very real concerns of Canada's critically and chronically ill, who are to be the end users of this product?
CSA believes that Health Canada could have saved millions of dollars and years of unnecessary work and suffering had they shown the common sense to listen to the concerns of experienced users, cultivators and distributors, who have expressed worries over possible heavy metal contamination and have stressed the importance of organic cultivation since it was first announced that this product would be grown in an abandoned Copper and Zinc mine. [viii]
"Canada's compassion clubs and societies have the experience and expertise that is so obviously missing from the Office of Cannabis Medical Access", says Lucas, "they are currently the only safe source of cannabis for Canadians suffering from critical or chronic conditions, and they are contributing more research than any other organization, including Health Canada; all at no cost to the taxpayer [ix]. If the federal government has a better model, Canadians have yet to see it."
Canadians for Safe Access advises Health Canada to cease the distribution of Prairie Plant Systems' cannabis to legal users and researchers until the extent and results of their safety testing is revealed, and accommodations are made for an independent analysis of this product.