Ottawa, Ontario: Health Canada announced yesterday that it will begin distributing medical marijuana to qualified patients in order to comply with a court order mandating the government to supply pot to patients who are federally authorized to use it. More than 580 Canadians are currently qualified to use and possess medical marijuana legally under federal law.
Under the new plan, the agency will sell either seeds or dried marijuana to eligible patients at discounted prices $5 a gram for cannabis, and $20 per bag of 30 seeds. (Prices are in Canadian funds.)
Health Canada signed a contract with a private firm several years ago to begin growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes, but has repeatedly reneged on promises to make its pot publicly available. The agency now claims it has an estimated 370 kilograms of medical cannabis ready for distribution.
The government-grown marijuana is reputed to average 10 percent THC.
Health Minister Anne McLellan noted that the policy change could be short-lived because Ottawa is appealing the court decision that mandated it. In January, an Ontario Superior Court judge ordered Health Canada to broaden access to medical marijuana after determining that the agency's existing regulations were unconstitutional because they failed to offer qualified patients a legal source for medicinal cannabis. Health Canada will likely cease selling medical marijuana if the ruling is overturned.
Since becoming Health Minister, McLellan has been reluctant to move forward on promises made by her predecessor, Allan Rock, to make marijuana legally available. In addition, the agency has repeatedly refused to make the agency's pot supply available for federally approved clinical trials, claiming that its cannabis was of inconsistent quality.
In March, the agency abruptly cut funding for one of only two ongoing clinical trials on the medical efficacy of marijuana. Health Canada gave no explanation for the decision, and McLellan has refused to sponsor any additional trials.