Article by Julia Veintrop, Cannabis Life Network
For over 25 years, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club has been advocating for the rights of medicinal cannabis patients and filling in the gaps in the system. Despite the ever-changing political landscape, they have always found a way to make sure that their members will have their needs met. Over the years, the illegal compassion club VCBC has survived through 8 raids, the last two being recent. While they have changed the law as they blaze the trail, the battle has been long and hard.
The reality of the situation has been and is that the illegal compassion club VCBC is under serious threat. But, there is always a reason to hope if you can hold on long enough… Thankfully, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club just got some good news from the Province. A step in the right direction, here is an outline of the situation and the new details that you need to know.
Why can’t the illegal compassion club VCBC just comply and ‘go legal’?
Currently, we have recreational cannabis regulations but medical cannabis has yet to be worked out. A huge reason for this is the fact that Health Canada has not completed long-term human studies. Without any medical backing, the government doesn’t know what to do with medical cannabis access. In their ignorance, a licensing system has been created that favours money, not experience. Medical patients are expected to register with a single licensed producer or go to a retail store, leaving them without affordable access to:
- High dose edibles and variety – something critical when dealing with dietary conditions
- Cannabis suppositories
- Higher dose cannabis products such as capsules
- Cannabis concentrates and topicals
- Specific strains that their system needs
Who can’t go to a Licensed Producer?
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to think that someone with a serious medical illness could just go to a licensed producer. However, there are many other factors that can create serious barriers and when it’s your medicine, it means your health. Licensed Producers are not accessible for people who:
- Don’t have a credit card or the ability to pay online – This could be due to their medical condition or financial situation.
- Don’t have a family doctor or health practitioner willing to sign their cannabis prescription.
- Can’t afford the high costs associated with LP’s.
- Don’t have a secure mailing address.
- Need emergency medicine.
The needs of medical patients cannot be met under the current licensing system. In the meantime, places like the VCBC have defied the law in remaining open. But, when it literally means life or death, it’s the only just thing to do.
The last two raids
On November 14th of 2019 and July of 2020, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club was raided by the Community Safety Unit. During each raid, thousands of dollars worth of cannabis and cannabis products were seized. For a non-profit that makes its own edibles, the raids were devastating. Nevertheless, they persisted. Despite their losses and remaining threats, the VCBC re-opened within 24 hours of each raid.
Mayor Lisa Helps and Victoria City Council
Regardless of the fact that they don’t fit into the current model, the VCBC provides an essential service. A sweeping exemption to the Cannabis Act can be granted if awarded by the Governor-General. This is what the VCBC wants but to obtain an exemption, you need to have a lot of political support. Thankfully, their struggle did not go unnoticed. In January 2020, a letter was sent from Victoria City Council to Minister Farnworth; after the council voted to support the VCBC unanimously. In it, they expressed their support for the VCBC’s exemption request. Even so, the club was raided six months later.
Surprise support from the Province
At the end of August, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps received a letter from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnsworth. The first thing addressed in the letter is the delay in his response; apparently, there was a misfiling. After, there are a couple of paragraphs explaining the provincial position when it comes to Medicinal cannabis. However, it goes on to express support for VCBC.
“That said, I have raised this issue with my federal ministerial counterpart and encouraged exploration of a license that could allow VCBC to continue providing certain services. The Province has also urged the VCBC to contact Health Canada about licensing and informed them they may want to share their views about enabling medical users to access cannabis through a storefront. The City may also wish to share its support for the VCBC model with Health Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org.”