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Associated Press
Medical marijuana researchers bummed about poor pot quality

May 14, 2002
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- In the world of high-grade marijuana, sticks, seeds and stems are not welcome ingredients. So when medical marijuana researchers claimed to have found such cannabis chafe among the pot imported from a government farm, they came to a sour conclusion.

These are not kind buds for medical marijuana patients.

The government-grown marijuana is being provided to San Mateo County for the first publicly funded analysis of HIV patients smoking the drug at home. But some of the patients and medical marijuana advocacy groups say the Mississippi-grown weed is weak.

"It's unconscionable that they would be giving this marijuana to patients," said Dale Gieringer, state coordinator for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "It's stale, low-potency ditch weed."

There are fewer than 10 people taking part in the study originally planned for 60 participants. One man gave up smoking the government-grade joints altogether after he became fed up with the low quality.

"I couldn't smoke the stuff any more," said Phillip Alden, a freelance writer who depends on medical marijuana to ease his HIV-related ailments. "I was disgusted with the federal government."

The government defends its marijuana, however.

"The marijuana we provide does not contain sticks and seeds. The problem is re-humidifying. It makes it kind of harsh," said Steve Gust, special assistant to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

They're having just the opposite problem in La Jolla, where two patients enrolled in a medical marijuana trial program have complained that the NIDA-provided pot is too potent.

"They've reported getting high shortly after the first few puffs," said Dr. Andrew Mattison, the center's co-director. "These are people with a chronic, debilitating illness who do not want to get high. They want to get pain relief."