medical marijuana users who've been anxiously waiting to try the feds' officially sanctioned crop are going to have to hold their breath a little longer. Check that -- a lot longer. The 2,000 plants harvested from the belly of an abandoned mine shaft in Manitoba were being prepared for shipment to 680 approved users.
But now it seems it will be months, perhaps as much as a year, before the crop actually gets to ailing patients.
The reason for the delay depends on who's doing the telling.
Health Canada spokesperson Andrew Swift says the crop has to be tested "before it goes out to those who have been authorized, to ensure that the quality standards have been met. We don't want to send off the stuff, making people subject to it, without making sure that it's of a certain quality."
OK, except the feds haven't exactly been showing medical marijuana users much compassion, forcing many of them to go to court to win exemptions that allow them to smoke pot for medical purposes.
Could the real reason for the delay be in those news reports from out west?
One such report quotes a spokesperson for the World Health Organization as saying that, under the provisions of a convention Canada signed in the 60s, the government must provide scientific evidence to the UN of the medical effectiveness of pot before it can distribute the green.
Swift denies that the UN is responsible for the holdup.
But even if the government doesn't end up having to jump through the UN's hoops, it still hasn't set up a distribution system to get the pot to patients.
Eric Nash, founder of the online resource centre Medical Marihuana, (www.medicalmarihuana.ca), says it would all be funny if patients weren't continuing to risk getting busted to get medicine.
"Now that the plants have grown, they don't know what to do with them or how they're going to implement distribution.
"In fact," Nash says, "Health Canada is now asking for feedback from authorized users and the public as to how to distribute the Flin Flon crop. In the meantime, it just sits there."
Swift says some authorized patients have been granted licences to grow their own medicine while they wait. But Nash insists it's unrealistic to expect the elderly or extremely ill to grow their own weed or find a friend who's willing to take on the heat to score.
And what if the current crop being tested by the feds doesn't measure up? Health Canada says it will be destroyed, translating into an even longer wait.