House Of Commons Holds First Ever Debate! 

House Of Commons Holds First Ever Debate! 
Posted by FoM on March 07, 1999 at 14:27:49 PT
To Legalize Drug For Medical Purposes! 
 Ottawa, Ontario: Canada's House of Commons debated yesterday a motion to recommend that the government "undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes." 
The House will vote on the motion, M-381, in June. The hearing was the first time the House of Commons has debated legalizing medical marijuana.   "We must now assume our responsibility as elected representatives by inviting the federal government to pass concrete measures without delay that will allow the therapeutic use of marijuana," bill sponsor MP Bernard Bigras (Bloc Quebecois-Rosemont) said. "The Controlled Substances Act is totally devoid of understanding and compassion toward the chronically ill, who want nothing more than to live in dignity. This act must be changed as soon as possible, in order to allow the medical use of marijuana by those who need it."   Bigras testified that the Canadian AIDS Society, the Canadian Hemophilia Society, and several prominent doctors "unambiguously" favor legalizing medical marijuana. He also attacked statements made by Health Minister Allan Rock one day earlier regarding the development of federal guidelines for medical marijuana clinical trials. Bigras called Rock's statements a stalling tactic.   "How can we have any faith in [the Health Minister's] words when, in the past, the Minister's actions did not fall in line with his commitments?" Bigras asked. "Every time the issue of legalizing the therapeutic use of marijuana [comes] up, the Minister of Health or the Minister of Justice [tries] to duck it. Their answer [is] always: they [are] open to the issue, their officials [are] studying it, and they hope to be able to announce a plan or something more specific in a few months, all the while hoping that the issue would go away."   Bigras said that Rock has ignored requests from seriously ill patients who have applied to receive medical marijuana under the Health Canada special access program. Recently, AIDS patient James Wakeford launched a civil suit against the federal government for the right to use medical marijuana after receiving no response from Rock's office. "We know that there is no indication whatsoever that the Minister listens to patients," Bigras concluded.   Minister of Health Secretary Elinor Caplan argued that existing federal law already allows for the regulated distribution of medical marijuana if the drug "is of good quality and originates from a legal or licit licensed supplier." She said she intends to amend Bigras' motion to urge the government to develop guidelines for conducting medical marijuana research.   Debate over M-81 will continue on two separate days schedule for later this spring.   For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup, Esq. or Paul Armentano of NORML   (202) 483-5500. 
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