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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
Canada's medical marijuana leaves bad taste

By Ian Gunn
BBC correspondent in Vancouver

Marijuana
Some say the government's product is worse than that sold on the street

Some medical marijuana users in Canada say the drug being supplied by the government is disgusting.

The country's Ministry of Health began distributing the drug to a handful of patients with serious illnesses last month to comply with a court ruling.

Canada has allowed the use of medical marijuana for more than two years, but until the court order the government refused to provide the drug to approved users.

But now a patients' rights group says the first users of the official marijuana find it weak and nauseating.

Court ruling

Two years ago Canada became the first country to regulate medicinal cannabis, but there was a lack of official supply of the drug and some patients complained they still had to buy it from street dealers.

Montreal computer programmer Matthew outside a marijuana supplies shop
Matthew says "marijuana does not turn you crazy like alcohol does"
The Health Ministry's official supply is being grown underground in an abandoned mine in Canada's remote north.

Health Minister Anne McLellan says she does not want it distributed to patients, at least not yet.

But this July a court ruled the government had to sell the drug to patients, so that is now happening.

Unfortunately many patients say the government's marijuana is terrible, with one saying it made him physically ill, another reporting it to be so weak and unpleasant he is returning it to the government with hopes of getting his money back.

One medicinal marijuana lobby group also says test results show the official supply has little active ingredient and is contaminated with lead and arsenic.

The health minister says she is willing to have her officials meet with patients to discuss the problems.

But patients say the government really needs to rethink its marijuana strategy, which they say is costing millions of taxpayers' dollars and is producing a drug that is worse than most street product.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Ian Gunn
"Some patients say the government's marijuana is terrible"



SEE ALSO:
Canada seeks to change drugs law
27 May 03  |  Americas
Canada to soften cannabis laws
02 Jan 03  |  Americas
Canada legalises medical marijuana
05 Jul 01  |  Americas


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