Medical marijuana still elusive in Alberta

Supporters say medical marijuana is hard to come by, even as a new study shows smoking it can help treat certain kinds of pain.

Smoking marijuana might ease some types of pain, as a new scientific study has found, but that's only if you can manage to get some of it.

Simonne LeBlanc, executive director of AIDS Calgary, said that while a number of her clients find marijuana to be an effective treatment for the pain and nausea associated with HIV, it's tough to come by legally in Alberta.

"It's really difficult to find a physician that will prescribe it," LeBlanc told CBC News on Tuesday.

"I think there would be a lot more people on it if more physicians were willing to do their prescriptions around them."

A double blind clinical trial at McGill University has indicated that smoking marijuana can ease chronic neuropathic or nerve pain without getting patients high.

The findings were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

'The last straw'

LeBlanc said it's easier to find a willing doctor in B.C. prompting some Albertans to go that route to obtain a prescription.    

She said she hopes the study will convince doctors in Alberta to begin prescribing the drug.

"I think that there is a growing number of doctors that are willing to look at it, particularly with people where nothing else is working," LeBlanc said.

"It seems to be sometimes the last straw for people and the last attempt to sort of control things."

Tim Person, co-owner of Hemporium in southwest Calgary, estimates that 30 per cent of his customers are medical users of marijuana.

"They need a device to help them consume, or information, or perhaps seeds so they can get into making their own medicine and not having to necessarily fuel the black market," said Person.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta doesn't keep a list of doctors willing to prescribe marijuana.

Callers are told to contact Health Canada, but when people call, they're referred back to the Alberta College.