Government cannabis unfit for humans, say Canadian patients

As a purveyor of marijuana, the Canadian government apparently has a lot learn from drug dealers on the streets. Above all, it needs to find out how to tell the good stuff from the dross.

So say the first customers of a federal programme started by Ottawa in July to supply the terminally ill with state-sponsored weed. Only 10 people across Canada have signed up so far, and the reviews have not been good. They are calling it "disgusting" and they want their money back.

"It's totally unsuitable for human consumption," Jim Wakeford, 58, an Aids patient in Gibsons, British Columbia, said. Likewise, Barrie Dalley, a 52-year-old from Toronto who had hoped the legal marijuana would ease the nausea associated with Aids. Both men are returning the one-ounce bags. Mr Dalley is asking for a full refund.

The scheme is part of a wider attempt by the authorities to balance the strictures of anti-drug laws with the demands of drug users. This week also saw the opening of North America's first legal drug injection clinic, in a notoriously drug-infested neighbourhood of Vancouver.

Canada is suffering stern rebukes from officials in the United States, who complain that Ottawa's drug policies are too liberal. Washington recently denounced Canada's decision to relax its approach to marijuana as tantamount to "state-sponsored suicide".

Anger in the United States has been focused on moves in the Ottawa parliament to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Washington has warned that such a step will force US customs authorities to tighten controls along the border.

But the clinic, in the downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, may be seen as the last straw by US officials. Up to 800 people a day are expected to use the facility. They will be given conselling and clean needles to inject on site.

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