Canada: Campaign Promotes Medical Marijuana by Joanna Frketich, (10 Apr 2006) Hamilton Spectator Canada A pharmaceutical company chaired by TV magnate Moses Znaimer and with ties to Burlington, is launching a campaign to get more medical marijuana users. Not everyone, including Health Canada, likes the idea. Cannasat Therapeutics Inc. researches and develops drugs derived from cannabis plants, and holds a stake in Prairie Plant Systems, the only government-licensed grower and distributor of marijuana in Canada. In the weeks ahead, it is placing ads in various media to tell cancer and AIDS patients they can get the drug legally from Health Canada to treat pain, loss of appetite and insomnia. "They have no idea that Health Canada will provide a safe supply for them," said Dr. Alan Ryley, a Burlington surgeon and director of Cannasat. "I was surprised by this. I know physicians working in pain clinics who, when they suggest cannabis might be helpful, their patients look at them like they're being asked to do something illegal. They're quite horrified." Health Canada has never had a campaign to offer pot to patients prescribed the drug by a doctor to treat cancer, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal chord injuries or disease, arthritis, epilepsy and other illnesses. And it would prefer to keep it that way. "We're not participating in it," said Chris Williams, spokesperson for Health Canada. "We do not support it." The program gets 90 applications a month. And there are 1,306 legal users. "We don't know how many are using it ( illegally ), we think it's quite a lot," he said. "They should know there is a legal way to do it." The Hamilton AIDS Network says the problem isn't a lack of awareness. "The challenge is that a large number of physicians aren't comfortable prescribing marijuana," said executive director Betty Anne Thomas. "It's not that people aren't aware of it, it's that they can't access it." Dr. Binh Khong, a Hamilton physician specializing in the treatment of pain, has only prescribed pot once in a five-year career. He believes no doctor at the Pain Management Centre at Hamilton General has prescribed the drug in 12,000 annual patient visits. "I wouldn't know where to begin with it," he said. "There's not much experience with it. I don't think people are aware you can get a prescription for it. I haven't had too many patients ask about it." A reason doctors are hesitant to prescribe pot is it has little or no scientific evidence to back it up. Cannasat hopes to change that by doing randomized clinical trials to tell MDs it's beneficial. Three of the company's five directors are local: Ryley, Burlington's Alan Torrie, former CEO of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital and Donald Ziraldo, co-founder of Inniskillin Wines.