Compassion Clubs Ask for Voice on Pot Committee
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Author: John MacFarlane, The Gazette
Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Contact: [email protected]
Lack of action on reform decried. 'Medical marijuana has 80 per cent support from the public'
Health Canada is studying medical marijuana regulation, and Canada's compassion clubs - which distribute pot to sick people - want on board.
After extensive lobbying, two compassion club representatives from the West coast won an invitation to address a Health Canada group - the cryptically-named Office of Medical Access Stakeholders Advisory Committee - when it met yesterday in Montreal. They presented nine recommendations, among them that compassion clubs get a seat on the committee.
"The compassion clubs are stakeholders in the development of these regulations - we have been successfully providing cannabis to ill Canadians for over six years with no government involvement," said Hilary Black, founder of the British Columbia Compassion Club Society.
The Health Canada committee is "deeply invested in the status quo of prohibition, and are influencing the creation of these regulations which cater to prohibition, not to the health-care agenda," Black said.
Health Canada official Jirina Vlk said that because the committee's members do not officially represent groups and offer their expertise as independent members, a compassion club representative would be "a very different thing."
But the compassion clubs don't buy the idea that committee members from Corrections Canada or the RCMP can truly offer independent advice, and argue that, regardless, the current committee has made little progress.
"What we have at Health Canada, unfortunately, is a complete failure of the system," said Philippe Lucas, founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society.
"In over 31/2 years and $10-million spent, all that Health Canada has managed to do is produce a lot of court injunctions and give a thousand pieces of paper to about a thousand people in Canada giving them legal permission to use.
"Those people are still forced to go to the black market or to a compassion society (for their marijuana)," he said.
"Medical marijuana has 80 per cent support from the public. This isn't a hot-potato issue anymore, this is something that can be done and should be done."
Compassion club members also urged the committee to become more open and accessible - committee meetings are currently closed to the public - to decentralize the regulation of medical marijuana, and to give amnesty to people currently involved in the compassion club movement.
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