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About 250 people - some toking in public - peacefully protested Canada's marijuana laws in downtown Red Deer yesterday, say RCMP.
Red Deer City RCMP Sgt. Gord Glasgow said he believed some protesters were smoking marijuana, but he didn't know how many for certain.
No one was arrested for the act during the protest, which took place in a park just west of City Hall. "We have a discretion to lay charges," said Glasgow.
Mounties decided against laying charges after weighing such factors as deterrence and the benefit to the community, Glasgow said.
He said he wouldn't speculate on what sort of message would've been sent had charges been laid yesterday.
RCMP say they attended the protest to monitor it and ensure it remained orderly. Red Deer is 150 km south of Edmonton.
Also yesterday, federal officials said a strain of government-certified marijuana is extremely potent but difficult to grow and may eventually be abandoned as too much trouble.
The flowering tops or buds of the strain, grown for Health Canada in a vacant mine section in Flin Flon, Man., contain between 20% and 25% THC, the most active ingredient of marijuana, lab results show.
American tests on marijuana seized by U.S. police forces suggest ordinary street dope averages about 5% THC, with sinsemilla - considered the champagne of weed - averaging about 10%.
But the highly potent Flin Flon strain - one of two official strains that together produced a crop of 244 kg last fall - is anemic and tough to grow successfully.
"We don't want high-maintenance plants," said Cindy Cripps-Prawak, chief of Ottawa's medical marijuana program.
"It's still unclear to me whether or not that is going to be the strain we're going to continue with."
The second strain is producing a respectable THC content as well, between 13% and 18% in its buds. Those levels are more in line with the needs of clinical trials, said Cripps-Prawak.
Health Canada has said it will not make any of its marijuana available directly to needy patients because it first wants to see scientific proof about whether the drug is effective.
Instead, patients approved by Health Canada must either grow their own marijuana or have someone else grow it for them.
Medical trials will determine whether the drug offers any benefits - such as pain relief - to the chronically ill.