First Tokers Of Health Canada Cannabis Call It Disgusting, Want Money Back

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, Sep 16, 2003.

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    Pubdate: Mon, 15 Sep 2003
    Source: Canadian Press (Canada Wire)
    Copyright: 2003 Canadian Press
    Author: Dean Beeby, Canadian Press
    Also: Photos of both Health Canada's "shwag" and the medical grade cannabis
    supplied by compassion clubs, along with other research data can be found
    Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


    OTTAWA (CP) - Some of the first patients to smoke Health Canada's
    government-approved marijuana say it's "disgusting" and want their money back.

    "It's totally unsuitable for human consumption," said Jim Wakeford, 58, an
    AIDS patient in Gibsons, B.C. "It gave me a slight buzziness for about
    three to five minutes, and that was it. I got no other effect from it."

    Barrie Dalley, a 52-year-old Toronto man who uses marijuana to combat the
    nausea associated with AIDS, said the Health Canada dope actually made him
    sick to his stomach.

    "I threw up," Dalley said Monday. "It made me nauseous because I had to use
    so much of it. It was so weak in potency that I really threw up."

    Both men are returning their 30-gram bags, and Dalley is demanding his
    money back - $150 plus taxes. Wakeford is returning his unpaid bill for two
    of the bags with a letter of complaint.

    A third AIDS patient says he's also unhappy with the product, which is
    supposed to contain 10.2 per cent THC, the main active ingredient.

    "I'm still smoking it - I would prefer better, but it's all I've got," said
    Jari Dvorak, 62, in Toronto. "I think Health Canada certainly should do
    better with the quality."

    All three are among 10 patients who have registered with Health Canada to
    buy dope directly from the government to alleviate their medical symptoms.
    Another 39 applications are pending.

    The department was compelled to begin direct distribution in July,
    following an Ontario court order this year that said needy patients should
    not be forced to get their cannabis on the streets or from authorized
    growers, who themselves obtain seeds or cuttings illegally.

    The marijuana is being grown for Health Canada deep underground in a vacant
    mine section in Flin Flon, Man., by Prairie Plant Systems on a
    $5.75-million contract. The department originally intended that the product
    go first to accredited researchers to demonstrate whether or not cannabis
    is medically effective.

    Health Minister Anne McLellan has said she opposes the direct distribution
    of government cannabis to patients and that the program will end if the
    department wins its appeal of the Ontario court decision.

    The government dope also came under fire Monday from Canadians for Safe
    Access, a patients' rights group that is pressing for supplies of safe,
    effective marijuana.

    Laboratory tests indicate the Health Canada product has only about three
    per cent THC - not the 10.2 per cent advertised - and contains contaminants
    such as lead and arsenic, said spokesman Philippe Lucas of Victoria.

    "This particular product wouldn't hold a candle to street level cannabis,"
    he said in an interview.

    But Lucas declined to identify the three labs that did the testing, other
    than to indicate they're in Vancouver, saying he fears the facilities might
    suffer repercussions from Health Canada because they were not authorized to
    possess the cannabis.

    He also would not say how the group obtained the sample of government dope.

    A spokeswoman for Health Canada said the department can't accept laboratory
    findings from anonymous facilities.

    "We question the validity of the test results because Canadians for Safe
    Access has been unwilling to reveal who did the testing, and when the
    testing was done, and under what conditions," said Krista Apse.

    She said the Flin Flon cannabis had to meet exacting production standards
    and was thoroughly tested for its quality.

    No patients have complained directly to Health Canada so far, Apse said,
    and the department will not accept returns or provide refunds.

    Lucas, who smokes marijuana to cope with his hepatitis C infection, said
    the lab results also showed that the cannabis provided at a Victoria
    compassion club for patients registers at more than 12 per cent and is
    freer from contaminants.

    He said the government cannabis was too finely ground up with stems and
    leaves, calling it "shwag" or "bunk," street terminology for the lowest
    grade of marijuana.


    [below is the press release distributed early Monday morning that resulted
    in the media attention]

    * Health Canada Cannabis Exposed! *

    Health Canada Cannabis Weak, Non-Organic, and Potentially

    Medical Users Deserve Better, Says Canadians for Safe

    Two weeks ago Health Canada began supplying cannabis to a handful of
    licensed medicinal users. As a public health initiative, Canadians
    for Safe Access ( - 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 ( The
    results of these tests are disconcerting, though not entirely surprising.

    CSA was appalled by the appearance of the supposedly medical-grade
    product. 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[ii]. In addition, cannabinoid testing
    indicates that the Health Canada product is well under 5% THC (3.0%),
    while the VICS cannabis tested at over 12% THC (12.7%). Accordingly,
    patients would have to smoke far less of the VICS cannabis in order to
    get relief of their symptoms.

    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[iv]; higher levels of lead were also detected. Biological
    testing has revealed that although both samples appear to be free of
    dangerous biological contaminants, the irradiated Health Canada
    product had 10X more colony forming units (CFUs) than the VICS organic

    "Considering that this is 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."

    Canadians for Safe Access Contacts:

    Western Canada:

    Philippe Lucas 250-884-9821

    Rielle Capler 604-875-0214

    Eric Nash 250-748-8614

    Central Canada:

    Dom Cramer 416-896-3240

    Alison Myrden 905-681-8287

    Eastern Canada:

    Debbie Stultz-Giffin 902-665-2355


    see exclusive, never-published high-resolution pictures of the
    Health Canada and VICS cannabis as well as the cannabinoid test
    results at:

    [ii] See: for
    potential dangers of irradiation.

    [iii] For information on the dangers of chemical phosphate fertilizers
    compared to organic sources of phosphorous, see:

    [iv] The Health Canada cannabis tested at 2ppm of arsenic vs. less
    than 1ppm in the VICS cannabis.

    [v] See test results and charts at:


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