Ms. Elinor Caplan (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, as I rise today to participate in this debate there are several members in the House whose work on this topic should be acknowledged. I would like to begin by acknowledging the member for London West for the work that she has done in this area since 1997. I would also like to acknowledge the member for Rosemont, the member from Okanagan and I regret that I cannot remember the correct name of the riding and other members who have spoken to me.

This government is aware that Canadians are suffering who have terminal illnesses and who believe that using medical marijuana can ease their symptoms and we in the government want to help them.

I emphasize that those Canadians who are struggling to find new and better ways to maintain and improve their health have no interest in this topic, and to all of those who are healthy I would say that I hope this is a topic that will never be of interest to them and that they will never need to come forward to ask for this product.

[.] 1740 [+] [-]

The concern we have is that there are those who are suffering. As the Minister of Health said in the House yesterday, he has asked his officials to develop a research plan that will include clinical trials for medicinal

marijuana, appropriate guidelines for its medical use and safe access to the supply of this drug. This will allow the government to get the information it needs so it can share that with Canadians. We want a

flexible approach that will help Canadians and protect the health and safety of Canadians.

In order to truly assess the value of marijuana as a drug it is essential that we have reliable scientific evidence. We know there is much anecdotal evidence. We heard the member in his opening remarks refer to that evidence, but to date there is no reliable scientific evidence. Therefore, as I have stated, the Minister of Health has asked his officials to develop a plan that will include the kind of information gathering, research and development of clinical guidelines for the appropriate use of medical marijuana.

What we want to do is facilitate the development of these guidelines so that those people who are suffering and in need of help will have access to something that may be beneficial and that may assist them. Many are terminally ill, many are in pain, many are suffering from symptoms which they believe, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest, could be helped in this way.

We want to get the facts. We want to know whether this is effective. But we also want to be able to use sections of existing federal legislation to give those people the opportunity to have access to a safe supply of medical marijuana that could be helpful to them.

The interesting thing that most people would not know is that Health Canada has already explored the possibilities of securing a medicinal quality source of marijuana for use in its research projects. As well, it has looked at ways of promoting research within this country. We would provide patients with access to medicinal marijuana in a controlled setting as part of clinical trials.

However, it is important to note, and I particularly address people who have expressed concern about access to the program, that the current Canadian drug regulatory framework and international control framework create a scheme by which medical quantities of marijuana could be legally available for medicinal purposes like any other therapeutic drug.

In other words, the distribution of marijuana as a medicine could already be possible provided that the product, the quantity and the supply, is of good quality and originates from a legal or licit licensed supplier as opposed to an illicit supplier. That is very important. It is also very important under the existing law that this be used in the proper research context.

The announcement by the minister dealt with the concerns that have been raised by many in this House: access for those who are suffering and in need, those who need help, but access within a controlled clinical environment of research with appropriate guidelines to ensure quality and safety and to ensure that the access to the supply of this drug is of good medicinal quality.


I want to state very clearly that physicians would be and must be very involved in the development of these research projects. The government wants to help Canadians who are suffering, but it wants to make sure they have the very best of advice and assistance.

While we will be developing a research agenda which will include clinical trials to gather evidence and needed documentation on both the risks and the benefits of the medicinal use of medical marijuana, we want a flexible approach that will provide patients with access to medicinal marijuana at an early stage of the research and in a setting that includes the support of qualified physicians. That is very important.

[.] 1745 [+] [-]

I heard the member opposite use the term legalizing of marijuana. People should know that we are not talking about the legalizing of marijuana.

What this does is it creates a research environment where we can do the research, gather the evidence and in that environment, just as we would with any other drug, make it available to people in a research context. During the research setting, people would have access to the drug. We would also be sure to develop appropriate clinical guidelines to make sure that it was used appropriately.

It would allow us to respond in a sensitive and compassionate way to those who are terminally ill, who are suffering and are coping with symptoms where the anecdotal evidence would suggest that medical marijuana might be helpful to them. We want to find solutions for Canadians who are suffering. We want to help Canadians. We want to do it in a way that is appropriate.

Therefore, I am pleased to say that I intend to amend the motion. At the appropriate time I will move an amendment to the motion. I would like to give members notice of what I plan to move.

I will be saying that the motion should be amended by deleting all the words after the word "should" and substituting the following "take steps immediately concerning the possible legal medical use of marijuana

including developing a research plan containing clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as well as access to a safe medicinal supply and that the government report its findings and

recommendations before the House rises for the summer".

The member opposite and others have asked are we prepared to put forward a timeline for this plan that the minister has asked his officials to develop. I say to members of the House as part of this debate that it is

the government's intention to do this work on a rapid basis so that we can have in place the plan to develop the research and give people access as expeditiously as possible. We know that the House rises for the summer in June. Before that time the minister is making a commitment. We hope all members will support the amendment. I know that there is support in all parties.

In the time I have remaining, I would like to thank all of the members who have spoken and who will be speaking on this, those who spoke in private and those who sent notes to the minister letting him know of their support for this initiative. I want to emphasize again that this is not the legalization of marijuana. This is treating marijuana like a drug that may be helpful to some. We want to find out if it is. We want to provide the conditions for access in a controlled clinical environment with appropriate clinical guidelines.

Therefore, I move:

That, the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "should" and by substituting the following:

"take steps immediately concerning the possible legal medical use of marijuana, including developing

a research plan containing clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as

well as access to a safe medicinal supply and that the government report its findings and

recommendations before the House rises for the summer."


I have this available in both official languages and will be presenting it to the chair to further this debate and discussion.

[.] 1750 [+] [-]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The Chair will take the motion under advisement and get back to the House with a ruling later.

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