Wednesday, April 14, 1999



Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds Dollard, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion M-381 as well as to the amendment put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

First, I will take a few moments to give the history of Cannabis sativa and to talk about the various reports and commissions on this issue, and I will then explain why I strongly support the motion and the amendment to
legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes.

To better understand the issue, I did some research and I consulted the Le Dain report, among others.

Cannabis sativa is cultivated or grows wild in most countries in tropical or temperate zones, including Canada.

[.] 1750 [+] [-]

This plant, which probably came originally from Asia, has been cultivated for a very long time. The street language has given marijuana different names, including pot and grass in English. In India, medium quality
marijuana is called bang and high quality marijuana is called ganga. It is called kif in Marocco, dagga in South Africa and ganga in Jamaica.

Cannabis also produces an amber coloured resin which, in the almost pure state, is a drug called charas in India and hashish in western and middle eastern countries.

As for the word marijuana, its etymology is not clear. Some sources say that it is the contraction of two first names that are popular in Mexico, namely Maria and Juana. Other believe that this word comes from the Mexican word mariguano, which means intoxicant, or the Panamanian word managuango, which has the same meaning.

Cannabis has many uses. Its stem provides strong textile fibres that are used in the manufacturing of wires and cables. They can also be used to make blankets, clothes, flags and boat sails. The seeds contain a kind of oil similar to linseed oil that is used in the manufacturing of soap and paint. In Canada, people used to grow cannabis to fight erosion and strong winds.

After this brief historical overview, I will know look at the medical use of that plant.

Our first description of cannabis comes from a medical treatise attributed to the Chinese emperor Chen-Nong, who lived around 2700 B.C. In addition, archeological discoveries at a site in Egypt between 3,000 and 4,000 years old have revealed its use. Herodotus, a Greek historian, mentions in his writings that inhaling the smoke from cannabis was a funeral purification rite of the Scythians, a people speaking Iranian and living between the Danube and the Don starting in the 12th century B.C.

The oldest of the Veda, the sacred Hindu books, written in Sanskrit after 1800 B.C., indicates the properties of cannabis.

Similarly, the Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, who originated in Northern Persia, which dates from 600 B.C., mentions that the cannabis resin produces drunkenness. One of the Hindu god Siva's titles is lord of the bongs and even today, the bong plays an important role in many Hindu religious practices, both symbolically and therapeutically.

In Europe, interest in the use of cannabis did not really develop socially and medicinally until 1798, or after the return of Napoleon's expeditionary forces from Egypt.

In the 19th century, western medicine paid a lot of attention to cannabis because of the influence of two authors: Dr. O'Shaughnessy, an English doctor who returned from India in 1843, and Moreau de Tours, a Frenchman who wrote considerably on the medicinal use and the abuse of cannabis in 1848.

In Europe, cannabis only began to gather a following in 1844, when the Club des Hachichins, whose members included Balzac, Hugo, Baudelaire and Gautier, was founded in Paris.

In Canada, the French apothecary, Louis Hébert, who arrived with Samuel de Champlain in 1606, was the first colonist to cultivate marijuana in North America.

There have been many studies and commissions on the subject, the most exhaustive being the 3,281-page, seven-volume Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report, published in India in 1894. It was followed by the Guardian committee report, named after the mayor of New York, England's Baroness Wootton report, and our own Le Dain commission report.

One argument used against legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is that marijuana now exists in the form of a drug, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, marketed under the name Marinol.

The problem is that THC, like most drugs, is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract slowly and irregularly and its speed of absorption can be affected by the stomach's contents.

In addition, THC frequently has undesirable side effects, and patients stop taking it.

As for marijuana, which admittedly also has harmful side effects, its rapid absorption by the pulmonary route is a real benefit to certain patients.

[.] 1755 [+] [-]

Despite all that medicine has done to understand the human being and try to stave off death as long as possible, it seems that compassion for human suffering sometimes falls short.

There is still a wide range of treatments, medical cocktails, for the seriously ill, of course. But what good are they if ingesting them makes people sicker.

Earlier, its benefits for those with MS, glaucoma, epilepsy or cancer were mentioned. There is also the wasting, or loss of muscle and fatty tissue seen in those with HIV and AIDS. In this particular situation, inhaling marijuana not only brings speedy and significant relief, but also helps patients' physical and psychological recovery.

Demonstrating compassion towards the sick is also the role of politicians and that is why I support any legislative measure to provide controlled access to the therapeutic and medical use of marijuana.

The Deputy Speaker: Before continuing, I want to point out that debate will now be on the amendment to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Drummond.

Government info  |  News  |  Medical info  |  Legal info  |  Links  |  Site Guide  |  e-mail  |   Home