Activism Blog Canada Feature

From The Archives: Letter to Police Chief Sets Tone for VCBC


By Ted Smith
Founder, Victoria’s Hempology 101 Society
March 19, 1997

Dear Doug Richardson

Your quick response to my letter is much appreciated and I apologize for replying so slowly, but such things require the utmost patience and careful attention. I welcome the opportunity to further explain my activities as president of Victoria’s Hempology 101 Society.

Included with my letter you will find a copy of our constitution, our year-end financial statements, two pages of information released by the Canadian government and a page with the names, signatures and addresses of the directors. I hope that this information proves useful, and if you require more specific data, I will gladly provide that to you as soon as possible. It is our hope that you will consider participating in the Harm Awareness Day, which has been moved to Centennial Square (same date and time), and we wish to do everything possible to allow that to happen.

Before I get into these topics further, I feel as though it is necessary to give you some information about myself. My parents moved off dairy farms into a village, Monkton, Ont. Where I lived until I was 9 and where my family members on both sides have been working the land for 6 generations and counting. I lived in Cambridge, Ont., for the next 12 years, until I went to Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., I started in economics and math, leaving with a philosophy degree. Then I saved my money for a summer and came to the west coast, like so many other youth who have become disgusted with the industrialization and pollution of Southern Ontario.

During these last 6 years I have been reading, writing and thinking a lot. I have written 8 books, including a textbook for Hempology 101 which will be out this summer. I consider myself to be a cross between a professor and a doctor, a philosopher and a healer. My unusual experiences and unique sense of wisdum have nurtured the ability to function well in the bush, on the farm and around the streets with kids, parents and elders. It is these interpersonal skills and educational materials which led me to Victoria 18 months ago.

Besides Hempology 101, I am involved in many other organizations on Vancouver Island. I volunteer my services to Inner City Youth Works Society, which provides a much need center for the most disadvantaged people in our society, giving them the matierals, knowledge and inspiration to create positive changes for themselves and the world around them. I am a member of Victoria’s Community Economic Developmemnt Corporation which will be focused upon creating businesses in Victoria which include both social and economic goals within their mandate. I am a member of the Vancouver Island Private Interest Research Group, based out of U. of Vic., and the B.C. Anti-Prohibition League. I am the secretary/treaturer of the Landslide Salmon Society which intends on restoring streams damaged by poor forestry practices using the help of marginalized people and laid-off forestry workers. I am also secretary/treasurer of the Vancouver Island Terra Firma Society which is dedicated to teaching people how to make tools and art from materials available in the wilderness, particularly clay pottery and twig furniture, so as to be able to maintain a self-contained community.

When I moved to Victoria from Vancouver to start Hempology 101, 1.5 years ago, I was quite aware of the political and economic situation that I was walking into. At no time did I entertain thoughts of radical stunts or sensational media coverage. The issues of substance abuse, prohibition and freedom of medical treatment are extremely important, demanding serious and profession action on all occasions. Since I arrived I have been quite busy organizing meetings and collecting information, sa well as incorporating as a non-profit society.

After meeting several people who depend upon marijuana to alleviate pain, and in particular some AIDS patients who are extremely discouraged with theirsituation, then reading more literature concerning the history of the use of Cannabis sativa and it’s suppression by large drug companies, I decided that something needd to be done for these people. Since they are too sick and financially burdened to coordinate such an activity, a few other people who shared my concerns joined with me to start Canada’s first Cannabis Buyers Club.

Since that time, myself, and several other people in and out of our society, have been providing marijuana and marijuana-based products to chronic and terminally ill people. As the society itself does not yet have the authority to legally supply these people, a status we are preparing to obtain or are willing to let any level of government do, it is up to individuals to independently work around the organization. So the society itself is not officially involved in personal transactions between members.

With the exception of one newspaper article, in which you were also interviewed in the Victoria News, Dec 6, 1996, our society has not received any media coverage. Instead, we rely upon word-of-mouth to communicate to members and the public. We would like to extend an invitation to you to attend, officially or unofficially, any one of our meetings. They are Wednesdays, 2:30 to 4:00 p.m., at U of Vic’s MacLaurin Bldg. rm #D110, until the end of March, and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Main Library courtyard on Broughton St. and on Thursday nights, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., at the James Bay United Church, 511 Michigan St.

I am aware of the fact that I just admitted to you that I am engaged in what is considered to be an illegal activity and I would like to further explain why I feel that it is necessary for me to do so at this time. Since I began this venture I have been very concerned with jeapordizing my personal safety, those who are helping me and especially the health and well-being of out clients. Many have chosen not to affiliate themselves with me because of their fear of arrest and persecution, from family members and society as a whole. Those who have joined this organization have placed a great deal of trust in my ability to help further the awareness of medical marijuana.

This activity definitely falls under the category of civil disobediance, though I have been attempting to be as civil and responsible as possible under the circumstances. I have been extremely particular about who I help with medical marijuana, turning away many people who do not need it as seriously as those who have incurable or life-threatening diseases. Everyone must be over the age of 18 unless they have written and verbal permission from their parent(s) or guardian. I do not sell on the street, not have I solicited this operation to anyone, unless I felt it was imperative for them to know what I was doing, i.e. when I spoke to the City Council last November.

There is one major difference between what I am doing and what most people who engage in acts of civil disobediance do. In most cases, the activist fully intends upon challenging a law in the courts to justify their position. I do not want to be arrested, and no one within this organization wants to be arrested, either. We are peaceful, Earth-loving people who are trying to implement positive changes within our community. Most of our clients are too sick to go to jail, though it was a risk they were taking even before they joined our club, when they used marijuana to help with their ailment.

I have the utmost respect for you and hte job that you are doing. I would like to help you protect our community from people who inflict pain and suffering upon innocent citizens. I would also like to help deal with the problems associated with other drugs, particularly heroin, alcohol and cocaine, as I personally knew 3 of the kids who died last summer and do not want to live through something like that again. The problems of gang violence, theft, extortion, prostitution and child poverty are all related to the prohibitionist’s stance of “Say No To Drugs”, a policy which creates unhealthy living conditions and mistrust of authority. It is my belief that we can work together to curb the negative effects of drug use, while encouraging trust and cooperation between the police force and the street community.

The developments with the medical marijuana community in the United States have played a key role in establishing credibility for our organization. Since the people of Arizona and California have voted in favour of supplying some sick people with the herb, we have felt even more confident in our ability to come forward without risking long jail terms of public disgrace. With so many doctors, politicians, lawyers, judges and concerned citizens fully supporting these changes, it should not be long before the entire country has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

San Fransisco began the crusade for medical marijuana after the Mayor and District Crown Attorney both came forward in support of this activity. The San Fransisco Cannabis Buyers Club opened it’s doors in Feb. ’94, with the support of the City and it’s police department. This was done, for the most part, by members of the AIDS community, focusing upon Denis Peron, whose partner died of AIDS before the club opened and in who’s memory the club was founded. This group has been instrumental in the reintroduction of medical marijuana.

The United States Federal Government, however, is not as cooperative as the local authorities in San Fransisco. In fact, three times the DEA, the last time using Navy Seals personnel at night, have busted the CBC, in an attempt to maintain the status quo imposed upon drug users in Western civilization. This is despite the fact that so many doctors and patients are coming forward with evidence to prove how marijuana helped them when nothing else would. Since the “War On Drugs” is based upon old, traditional trains of thought, it is hard for many people to see beyond it to the greater issues.

To combat the propaganda being spready by the Federal government, the New England Medical Journal just published an editorial supporting the use of marijuana for some people with some illnesses, the most serious of these being AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis. It is also an attempt to clarify why doctors would be willing to lose their jobs if they were stopped from prescribing marijuana because they are more dedicated to the health and safety of the patient, than the health of the political arena.

Elsewhere, several cities and municipalities in Europe have began to allow the sale of marijuana and/or heroin in an attempt to curb the megative side effects of substance use. Delfzijl, a city in the Netherlands, actually owns a cannabis bar, using the tax money to strengthen community programs. Statistically speaking, these programs have reduced crime while saving lives, with HIV infections seriously declining in those places where a non-judgemental harm reduction model has been used.

Our situation here in Victoria is quite unique. With the Provincial Government in town, there’s a lot of national and international attention paid to the activities on this city’s streets. Many people are depending upon this city to play an instrumental role in leading British Columbia and the rest of the world, out of these troubled times. We feel that it is imperative that the people of Victoria have access to all information, if this leadership role is to be fulfilled, hence our concentration upon the conversation around medical marijuana.

I hope that it is possible for us to establish and maintain a professional relationship, based upon trust, honesty and respect. There seems to me no reason why everyone cannot work together through these changing times, and I hope that you accept this invitation to begin establishing cooperation and friendship between our two organizations.

We will not be publicly speaking about the Cannabis Buyers Club until April 20, at which time we wish to further introduce ourselves to the city of Victoria. Until that time we will attempt to keep our operation out of the public eye.

It is my hope that you, or someone else from your department, would come to speak on behalf of the police in regards to the issues I presented in the Harm Awareness exposition I gave to you before. It is imperative that the law enforcement agencies work with the social service and health sectors of our community to ensure a safe environment in Victoria. We need cooperation from all levels of government, corporations and individuals if we are to solve the growing economic, environmental and social problems facing us today.

If you were to show support for our operation, it would open the door for the Provincial and Federal Government to begin seriously discussing their participation in helping these people who need marijuana for their ailments. This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of our operation, as we do not have the facilities or inclination to provide medical marijuana to everyone who needs it, and would prefer it if our government was able to perform that service.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that I am willing to cooperate with you, the police department and our government, as much as possible, as I coordinate Hempology 101, the Vancouver Island Cannabis Buyers Club and the Harm Awareness Day. If you would like any further information, please contact me at 381-3262. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Truly,

Leon (Ted) Smith

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