A Dutch company is interested in supplying marijuana to Canada's medical pot users, a service currently provided by a Saskatoon company with an operation in Flin Flon, Man., near the Saskatchewan border.
Bedrocan B.V. has been producing medical-grade marijuana for the government of the Netherlands for six years. The company is contemplating bidding for a similar contract with Canada.
The federal government recently extended a contract with Prairie Plant Systems, the company behind the Flin Flon plant, to 2011. In the meantime, it has called for contract bids from other potential suppliers.
Bedrocan is contemplating submitting a bid but is asking the government for more details, including the length of any contract.
The Dutch company said it could offer different types of marijuana.
"Offering more varieties is the first thing," Bedrocan director Tjalling Erkelens said this week from Veendam. "I think that's very important to patients, that they have this possibility to choose different varieties."
Bedrocan's most potent variety contains 18 per cent THC, the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana that has been shown to reduce nausea and increase appetite in cancer and AIDS patients. It has also been shown to reduce pain in people with such diseases as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.
Another Bedrocan variety has very little THC but has more cannabidiol (CBD), which is not intoxicating. It acts as a sedative.
"In Europe, many medical doctors are more interested in the CBD part," Erkelens said.
The call for a variety of medicinal pot has already come from within Canada's medical cannabis community.
"Different strains have different effects on different symptoms," said Philippe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which supplies several strains of cannabis to about 900 people.
The federal government currently gets its medical pot from an old mine in Flin Flon, Man., run by Prairie Plant Systems Inc.
The company is required to follow a strict set of conditions and use one strain only.
"It's a very tight, specific product that's highly tested ... it has to be highly consistent," company president Brent Zettl said from Saskatoon.
The federal supply is so unpopular that only about 20 per cent of Canadians who are allowed to use medical pot rely on it.
Others grow their own under federal licence. Many also buy pot on the black market or share with friends, risking fines or jail time.
Bedrocan's possible entry into the market is not definite.
"I'm waiting for more information at this moment, and we'll see what we do," Erkelens said.