Canadians this week began receiving government-grown marijuana for the treatment of symptoms of chronic diseases like cancer and AIDS. Several hundred Canadians have been authorized by the government to use marijuana to treat symptoms of pain and nausea and to boost appetite. The program, announced in July, provides marijuana grown by the government in a former copper mine, now an underground greenhouse, in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Approved program participants also can grow their own marijuana or designate someone to legally grow it for them. Medical marijuana advocates struggled for nearly three years in Canadian courts to get the government to exclude patients who use the drug for medicinal reasons from Canadian laws making marijuana use illegal. Marijuana possession remains a crime in Canada, but those who register with the government with approval from their doctors can legally purchase and use government-grown pot.
Last month Health Minister Anne McLellan announced the program to sell government-grown marijuana, satisfying an Ontario court order for the government to make a legal supply available to authorized patients. The court ruling said current laws made "seriously ill, vulnerable people deal with the criminal underworld to get medicine." Under the program, qualified patients can get just over an ounce of dried pot for about $105, well below street prices. Authorized growers can buy packs of 30 seeds once a year for $15.
Nine U.S. states allow limited use of marijuana for medical purposes under the direction of a doctor, but the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2001 ruled that such state laws violated the federal ban on the controlled substance. The Bush administration also has asked the high court to decide whether the government can strip a doctor's license to prescribe drugs if the doctor has prescribed medical marijuana. It also has appealed a ninth circuit U.S. court of appeals ruling that blocked the federal government from punishing doctors who prescribe medical marijuana.