Currently the City of Victoria, B.C. is preparing to license medical cannabis dispensaries but several key functions of the oldest club in town appear to be in danger of being prohibited by the new regulations. While it is wonderful that the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club and other dispensaries are getting a business license to operate from the municipal government, the bylaws might stop the clubs from delivering medicine, selling cookies and operating a safe smoking facility. However, there is still time to convince the city councillors that amendments needs to be made that will accommodate these important components.
In fact, the VCBC started with nothing but deliveries, as I lived in a van in Jan 1996 when we founded the organization. While it was a dream to get a storefront at the time, it was very clear from the beginning that bringing medicine to patients would be a necessary part of the job if the true intent is to help those most in need. Indeed the value of this service to the sick and isolated cannot be underestimated, though it is very hard to get a healthy person to truly understand.
Patients virtually stuck at home face many challenges to supply themselves with food and medicines of all types. Obtaining cannabis from the black market in these circumstances is very difficult, especially for the elderly. Providing cannabis products to people in these circumstances is often the only way they can get a consistent supply of quality products.
One of the main benefits of delivering medicine to patients stuck at home is that it gives the caregiver a chance to educate them about how to use the medicine and what options are available in an environment that is totally safe and comfortable to the patient. Many people have a very hard time patiently waiting for information when they visit the club simply because they are in so much pain that they cannot concentrate. Being able to sit comfortably at home allows many patients to relax enough to ask questions and absorb the information.
While many patients can find a caregiver to help them get medicine, which is something most clubs prefer, not everyone can find someone to do that. Many elderly have moved to Victoria away from friends and family, so the only other people they know who could help are other old folks. Sometimes a patient is only temporarily unable to go to the club, having had an accident or operation, at which time a delivery is also critical.
Ironically after starting the VCBC 20 years ago, I have found myself in the position of being a caregiver for a seriously ill patient. Not only is it critical for her that I provide her food and medicine to her hospital bed, but I also rely upon others to help me, including bringing cannabis products to our home in the country. Being on the receiving end of assistance like this makes me so very proud of starting a service that makes such a huge difference in the lives of those most in need.
That is why the VCBC does not charge extra to patients that are getting a home delivery because of illness. In fact the club loses money almost every delivery, as the purchases are often so small the profit cannot cover wages and travel expenses. That is why deliveries should be a mandatory part of being a compassion club rather than being eliminated altogether.
The city’s justification for stopping deliveries is rather weak, at best. The only reason stated in the public record lumps deliveries together with mail orders, making it appear as though mail orders and deliveries are more difficult to oversee that direct sales. It is interesting to note that the federal government thinks the exact opposite, making mail order the only legal way to purchase cannabis and specifically denying legal storefronts to operate.
“A medical marijuana retailer loses the ability to screen customers and prevent purchases by minors if sales are mail products to customers. conducted via mail or other form of delivery.”
Using sales to youth as a justification for stopping deliveries to hospitals is a sad attempt to create fear about young people gaining access to cannabis products because there are dishonest people in the world. The proposed regulations should require reasonable business practices to ensure that memberships and sales are not granted to people that do not qualify or are too young to gain access. If a full qualified member intends upon reselling their cannabis products to others, whether they are a youth or not, is difficult to stop entirely with a storefront operation and that is no different when delivering to a patient at home.
In a properly managed club, deliveries are arranged by phone, with the exact purchase and cost being determined. The person delivering only goes with the medicine ordered by phone and checks id before the purchase, just like in the store. Every precaution is taken by the VCBC to make sure no one but the patients is using the medicine, whether it is purchased in the store or by delivery.
With such a caring city council it is hard to believe they will pass the regulations without making amendments for deliveries so that patients can continue to use the services they have come to rely upon. Hopefully many patients will help educate the councillors and mayor about all of the reasons why deliveries, cookies and a smoking room are integral parts of a compassion dispensary, which I have often called a refugee center for victims of the drug war. Working together we can create a regulatory scheme that suits everyone’s needs and maximizes the potential benefits of this incredible plant.