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Medical marijuana: Legal but elusive

Canada is one of the few countries that allow the legal use of marijuana (cannabis) as a medicine. Yet a report by the Canadian AIDS Society in June 2006 found that most of the 14 to 37 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS who use the herb to manage symptoms are forced to buy it illegally.

In addition, several thousand Canadians suffering with serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, seizure disorders, and stroke, use cannabis to provide relief from nausea, pain, anxiety, and depression. Yet nearly 30 percent rely on street dealers for marijuana.

The report suggests that the reason only 1,399 seriously ill Canadians are authorized to
possess medicinal cannabis through the federal program is that many sufferers are not aware the program exists or cannot find a physician willing to prescribe the treatment.

In order to provide better access to medical marijuana, the Canadian AIDS Society suggests that cannabis should be dispensed through regulated community-based compassion clubs organizations that provide a variety of marijuana strains, baked goods, and other cannabis products. Until then, the Society recommends that the federal government better publicize its medicinal cannabis program so that physicians are informed about the benefits of the program.

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