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Medicinal pot should be ‘the good stuff’

Canadian AIDS Society supports patients growing their own

IT AIN'T BC BUD. Medicinal marijuana advocates Alison Myrden and Philippe Lucas showcase marijuana provided by Health Canada that patients say isn't worth smoking. Credit: Rob Thomas

People living with HIV/AIDS should have access to good quality marijuana and be allowed to grow their own supply, says the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS).

CAS released its official position statement Jun 4 at a joint news conference on Parliament Hill, just in advance of the National Day of Action on Medical Marijuana.

Spokesperson Enrico Mandarino outlined CAS’ stance that “people living with HIV/AIDS should have access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS through a compassionate framework.”

Critics of the federal government’s current pot program have highlighted what they say is sub-par marijuana provided by Health Canada to patients who can legally smoke up. They say the product is so bad that patients are returning the pot.

And the national AIDS agency agrees, noting, “People living with HIV/AIDS should continue to be allowed to be self-sufficient and produce their own supply of cannabis.

“People living with HIV/AIDS should have a choice as to the cannabis product they want to consume and should have access to a safe, legal, reliable, affordable and fresh source of cannabis, with an option for an organic source,” states the CAS position paper.

CAS also supports clinical studies on cannabis and an expanded Health Canada research agenda and partnerships, as well as recognition of compassion clubs on Health Canada’s stakeholders advisory committee.

“We have to regulate drugs in society,” said Eugene Oscapella, director of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, “and criminal law is probably the worst possible way to regulate them.”

Oscapella was among the advocates who joined forces to call for greater access to medical marijuana and reform Canada’s drug laws. He was joined by Marc Boris-St Maurice of the Marijuana Party of Canada, Jack Cole from the US group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Phillipe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society and Alison Myrden from the Medical Marijuana Mission.

Reports from compassion clubs in Canada estimate that 35 percent of their members are people living with HIV/AIDS who use the drug to improve their quality of life.

In surveys, approximately 28 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS report using cannabis, mainly to relieve anxiety and/or depression, increase appetite, gain weight, increase pleasure and relieve pain.