A U G U S T  2 0 2 1 


The Cannabis Digest


A long and difficult year, a review, and a sigh of relief.

By Ted Smith

POLITICS 
A huge sigh of relief swept through the club on July 14, 2021, as the one year anniversary of the last raid by the Community Safety Unit passed without the organization receiving a fine.  The VCBC was raided by the CSU in November 2019, and then again in July 2020.  The BC Cannabis Control and Distribution Act only gives the province a year to prosecute anyone caught in violation of the law, so the organization cannot be given a fine for either raid because we have passed the statute of limitations.  

While we can only speculate why the Solicitor General’s office did not follow through, we will take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us. Advocacy to politicians, supporting us with letters or funds to pay for our exemption application, and coming out to the rallies and helping in many other ways, we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of our community and we thank you deeply for your support.  A special thanks to the board of directors, who have bravely put themselves on the front line to help protect the staff and patients that rely on us.  Finally, the staff of the VCBC deserve mountains of gratitude for standing up together in the face of overwhelming opposition to continue to keep the medicine flowing every day.

Of course, the CSU could raid us again, though it seems unlikely they would think that tactic will successfully shut us down.  They could still pursue the landlord with a fine, or even jail time, though with the passing of time that seems less likely too.  One reason the Solicitor General may have hesitated could be the exemption application our legal team at JFK Law Corporation submitted to Health Canada this spring, after the CSU’s threat was sent to our landlord.  In correspondence with JFK Law Corporation, after the landlord was told he could face fine or jail for allowing us to operate, the BC Cannabis Secretariat did not accept our argument in correspondence with JFK Law Corporation, that we were medical and firmly confirmed their desire to pursue us.   Hence we are on guard against further punitive measures but relieved that this time limit has passed.

A couple of years ago, the VCBC published a Strategic Plan 1.0 in which we predicted being raided and to continue running, as we lobbied for changes.  It was bold to claim that we could survive the initial attempts by the provincial and federal governments to shut us down before eventually finding a way for us to switch to the legal scheme without negatively affecting our broad range of products and services.  We feel blessed to have made it this far.

EVENTS & THE BOX 

We have a new Facebook Page!  Our old Facebook page has been taken down, so we have had to create a whole new one to communicate our events and news with our members. You can check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/VCBC-100279405679307 If this Facebook page gets taken down, you can always keep up to date on our blog www.cannabisdigest.ca, or if you are a member of the club please send us an email to hellovcbc@gmail.com to be added to our email list.

With the lifting of COVID-19 public health restrictions, everyone at the club is looking forward to getting back to normal with events and the re-opening of the box.  In total we have 4 public events happening this fall, on top of the club’s regular monthly games night.

For many the most anticipated event this fall will be the re-opening of our beloved Box.  Shutting down the smoking lounge during the pandemic had a terrible influence on many of our patients.  We will announce the date The Box opens when we are comfortable with the provincial health regulations, and the case count in the province and the island is low and maintains a downward trend, and to make sure we re-open the box with the safety of our members as the top priority.

  1. Wednesday, September 8th: Hempology Anniversary @ Centennial Square from 4:20pm to 8pm

    Starting at 4:20 pm we will celebrate together at City Hall followed by a march to the BC Legislature at 7 pm.  On the stage at Centennial square  we are going to play REACH FOR THE POT, a gameshow I created a few years ago that pits two teams of 4 against each other with trivia and contests for prizes and bragging rights.  This will be a fantastic gathering of old friends and newcomers to the cannabis industry, along with patients of the club and tourists.

  2. Thursday, September 30th: POT NOT PILLS Rally @ The Legislature at Noon

    POT NOT PILLS will be at noon on Thursday Sept 30 at the BC Legislature and will feature patients with their empty pill bottles laid out on blankets to show all of the medicines that cannabis has replaced.  We will be organizing an online campaign at the same time, hoping to create a viral explosion of pictures with people around the world at home with their old prescription drug containers.  

  3. Sunday October 3rd: Members Memorial @ Beacon Hill Park Bandshell at 2pm

    We will be holding a celebration of life to pay our respect to all those members who passed away during the COVID pandemic. We will release a list of names of those members we know have passed during the past year. Without the box it has been hard to communicate with our members and check in one the whereabouts of those on the fringes. Anyone interested in helping arrange a table or who has a picture of a deceased member for the ceremony, please contact the VCBC at hellovcbc@gmail.com

  4. Annual General Meeting:  TBD

    Once again we need to bring everyone together to build upon our foundation and celebrate our efforts.  The Annual General Meeting of the VCBC will give us a chance to reflect on the last year and elect some new life on the board of directors.  Several board members are running for re-election but a recent resignation has created room for a new person to join our team at the top. 

RESEARCH

New Survey on the Use of Cannabis for HIV Symptom Management

We are pleased to share a new survey that has been funded and launched to investigate the impact of legalization of cannabis upon persons living with HIV and their use of cannabis as a symptom management tool.

If you are interested in participating in the study, it only takes approximately 30 minutes.  As an incentive, there will be a cash draw at the end of the project and will be awarded to  participants who voluntarily submit their contact information.  To participate in this study, participants must:

  • Identify as an adult living with HIV in Canada
  • Use cannabis to reduce and manage symptoms (for example, appetite loss, weight loss (wasting), nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, etc.)
  • Be able to complete the online survey in English or French

“This research project is looking for participants to take an online survey on the use of cannabis for HIV symptom management. The broad objective of this study is to understand the experience of people living with HIV who use cannabis to help reduce and manage their symptoms. Specifically, this survey covers three broad categories of questions:

  • The use of cannabis to reduce and manage symptoms
  • The impact of legalization on cannabis use and access
  • The impact of COVID-19 on cannabis use and access

​The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Principal Investigator is Dr. Marilou Gagnon of the University of Victoria. Members of the research team include: Dr. Adrian Guta, Dr. Zach Walsh, Dr. Carol Strike, Dr. Jason Nickerson, Nancy Chow, Richard Elliott, and Trevor Stratton.”

Interview with Dr. Marilou Gagnon:

The VCBC was founded in part by Ted’s motivation to start the VCBC after meeting a local baker who made cannabis cookies for HIV positive patients. Ted took inspiration from this work and knew that patients needed this medicine in a low cost, high potency avenue that was easy for sick people to access.  

When we received the introductory email about this research project we were elated to help in whatever way we could. We had the opportunity to meet the lead researcher, Dr. Marilou Gagnon of the University of Victoria, and to ask her some questions about the project and her work as a nurse and a community activist and researcher.

Dr. Marilou Gagnon has been a nurse for twenty years, working in emergency rooms and eventually landing in an HIV clinic.  This experience put her on a path to pursue further education and to become an HIV researcher from a nurses perspective.  Her research findings on HIV symptom management pointed her to the conclusion that cannabis was one of the most effective tools patients relied on for their symptoms.  

Emphasizing that she was not a cannabis researcher, she never set out to research the medicinal benefits of cannabis.  Instead it was her research with persons with HIV/AIDS that discussed the benefits of cannabis instead of prescription drugs for managing their symptoms.  Her research brought her to cannabis as the answer for many patients.Her work with the HIV Nurses Association led her down the path of work in harm reduction services which turned into a major focus for her research.  Her study is deeply rooted in harm reduction services, safer consumption sites and working with at-risk populations. Her work on this survey seeks to explore the impact of legalizing cannabis, which is a major policy shift, and to assess its effect upon persons with HIV that rely on cannabis for symptom management. 

Community care, grassroots activism, and harm reduction informed her approach to public policy and research.  When we got to explain some of the history of the VCBC and our work in harm reduction and community care, Dr. Gagnon expressed that she felt her work had come full circle.  She started in 2002 working with HIV positive persons and harm reduction, and the club was founded in 1996 to help get medicine to HIV positive persons and other patients.  She told us that she was never interested in research for the sake of research, she expressed that her work was never just about HIV, “it was about community, about inequities, you know about all the bigger issues that are still present to this day.”  

This current research survey was originally intended to be a longitudinal study with HIV positive persons being interviewed over the course of three years to assess the impact of legalization of cannabis upon their access to their medicine.  However, the global Coronavirus pandemic shifted her plans to do a long study. The project has been re-envisioned as an online survey to reach patients across Canada and to take a snapshot of what access to cannabis for patients looks like across the nation.   The goal of the project is to survey at least 400 people and to gather data to analyze the impact of legalization and how people use cannabis for their symptom management.  At the end of this project, Dr. Gagnon expressed that though the survey is focused on HIV patients, the results can be extrapolated to represent the struggles and obstacles that most patients with chronic ailments face in managing their symptoms and accessing cannabis.