Help the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club get an Exemption from the Cannabis Act.

Letters of support need to be submitted to hellovcbc@gmail.com by October 15th, 2020.

In an attempt to gain an exemption from the Cannabis Act that regulates the cannabis industry, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club needs letters of support from individuals and organizations.  This exemption, whether granted by Health Canada or the courts, will provide a path for the club to transition its retail and processing facilities into the legal system without compromising the quality and prices the nonprofit society has offered for years. Given all of the pressures and complexities of the current business market, there seems no other way for the organization, and our dependent members, to survive.

The Community Safety Unit is the enforcement arm of the BC Ministry of Public Safety, which oversees the cannabis regulations. The CSU raided the VCBC in November 2019. 

Following the raid, the VCBC received the full support of Victoria city council to obtain an exemption from the province.  Instead of responding to the mayor and council, the province and the CSU raided the club again eight months later on July 15, 2019, where they seized a substantial amount of medicine.  Fines and other punitive measures are expected to follow, as the province is intent on shutting down the legacy market to make room for the profit driven recreational stores.

We now need help collecting persuasive letters from stakeholders as evidence that our club impacts countless lives and deserves an exemption from the provincial and federal laws governing cannabis. We need patient testimonials, written support from politicians of all levels of government, affidavits from expert witnesses from various scientific and academic fields, evidence from those working in the cannabis industry about the difficulties inherent in the legal medical and recreational cannabis schemes, as well as letters from other non-profit societies with similar mandates for the betterment of society to lend support to our cause.

Letters of support from members should include the following information:

  1. Medical history.
  2. History of cannabis use.
  3. Relationship with club, and when you became a member.
  4. Benefits of club compared to “black market”.
  5. Benefits of club compared to legal market.
  6. Immediate impact upon your condition and lifestyle if the club is shut down.

We will also be placing efforts to obtain letters of support for an exemption from many politicians and political entities. Certainly we expect our mayor Lisa Helps and the Victoria city council to follow up with another letter of support to the federal government. We will be unrelenting in our push for action from the politicians who have verbally supported us but not yet put anything in writing.  Letters from politicians in opposition parties will also be sought along with letters from current elected officials.

There is a wide range of expert evidence we will need to provide a solid foundation of information upon which to build our argument for an exemption.  This includes experts in cannabis and cannabinoid medicine, economics, constitutional law and poverty-related issues.  

Luckily the cannabis community has cultivated relationships with many expert witnesses. We will be reaching out to the expert witnesses in the recent Howell decision that took place in Alberta of this year where the judge found Howell’s rights as a grower and medicine provider were violated when his equipment and medicine was seized in March 2017.  The judge found this to be a violation of his rights due to the constraints on concentrates under the ACMPR.  We will seek the contribution of the experts in this case and cases like it in Canada, but we will also seek others who have not been asked to be involved in this fight for cannabis rights before.

Obtaining evidence from individuals that have worked within the legal cannabis system will be a critical component of our proposal.  Documenting many of the flaws as experienced from people who work within the restrictive Health Canada regulations will assist the courts in understanding how problematic the regulations are from every perspective.  Diving into the overlapping problems inherent in the fledgling legal system will highlight why our club cannot fully comply with the current legal framework.  

If we were to participate in the legal system as it exists at present we would go bankrupt attempting to immediately fully comply and patients would be forced to deal with fewer options and lower quality products at higher prices. Testimony of professionals who can attest to the inequitable reality of the financial obstacles the legal market imposes will lend much strength to our exemption argument. 

We will be seeking the assistance of other non-profit organizations that serve our membership in other aspects of their lives and who’s mandates run parallel to our own.  We will be seeking help from a variety of agencies and local organizations that help disenfranchised and marginalized populations.  We will be seeking support from local organizations as well as national advocacy organizations. Hearing from the broader community that work with people  who struggle with addictions, disease and poverty who can attest to the benefits of reasonable access to cannabis medicine will give Health Canada and the courts a better context for why we need to continue our work as the legal cannabis system evolves.

We need help to complete this momentous feat.  Many members of our club are unable to write their story in a way that clearly articulates their issues, are unable to use a computer, or who face multiple barriers to writing letters outlining their medical history and cannabis use. We will be recruiting volunteers with excellent writing skills to help out those who have stories that are particularly relevant but cannot write themselves. 

Convincing insiders in the cannabis industry to write in support will be critical to our plan.  Some that have been frustrated with the systematic failures within Health Canada’s programs will be reluctant to express their experiences on paper for fear of repercussion and that is understandable. Others will be happy to explain the nuances of the problems they have experienced with trying to participate in the legal market and the financial burdens they carry for doing so.  Collecting stories of individuals and businesses that have suffered unnecessary, and at times devastating restrictions, delays, and sudden hurdles from the legal medical and recreational schemes will highlight many of the reasons why attempting to comply with the law would have resulted in the ruin of our compassion club and the demise of our patients.

It will take an extraordinary effort from members and staff to get support letters from large agencies such as AIDS Vancouver Island, the Action Committee for People with Disabilities and Together Against Poverty, and others.  These organizations and non-profits like them will only provide us assistance if our mutual members pressure them into taking action.  Getting these letters will be the most difficult to obtain but they are critical if we hope to provide the full context for the reasons we need an exemption.Please let us know if you are part of an organization that might be able to assist us so we can combine our efforts.

This is a daunting task.  After getting all of these letters, Health Canada might still turn down our exemption request and we will be forced to take them to court.  However, the better we do now the more difficult it will be for the government to reject us and the more prepared we will be for court, which is the most likely outcome.


Member Letter Template

The following letter is a sample to help patients understand some of the main points and tone we wish to use in our attempt to obtain an exemption.  This example is brief and some of the details in this example are incorrect to help highlight issues that can be addressed.

Today’s Date

Hello,

My name is ______ and I am writing to encourage Health Canada to grant the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club a temporary exemption from the Cannabis Act.   

They need to continue to provide their high quality medicines to patients like me until such time as the legal medical and/or recreational systems are able to offer comparable products at comparable prices.  

My use of cannabis as medicine started ______________.  As the condition progressed, using cannabis ___(topical, suppository, smoking)____ worked to relieve ___(pain, inflammation, etc)____.  I also use cannabis as a substitute for _____(prescriptions, illicit substance, etc)_____.  

Since the club has formed I have had a steady supply of high quality, inexpensive cannabis products that have provided me with excellent symptom relief.  In particular, the products the club provides give me the relief I need at a cost I can afford on a daily basis.  

Before the club, my access to cannabis medicine was _______. If the club was shut down I would have to __________. This would impact my life in the following ways___________.

While I have looked at what is available in the legal system, I have not seen anything comparable in price or quality.  The few times I have actually tried in a legal store was ________ and my experience was __________.  While in the legal stores I have tried to ask some questions about the medical applications and my experience was _______.

My doctor is unwilling to prescribe me cannabis because ____________.  I cannot afford to pay an online doctor to write me a prescription and do not have a credit card to make a purchase even if I got a legal prescription.  Since I do not have a lot of money, waiting to get medicine in the mail is a serious inconvenience compared to going to the club.

If the club was shut down I would lose access to the products that keep me healthy and happy.  My anxiety would go through the roof, my finances would suffer and my community would be dismantled.  The VCBC has been central to my life for _____ years and it would be devastating to have it fail in transition to legalization after being so instrumental in the fight against prohibition.

There are few negatives of allowing the club to continue operating as it has for a quarter of a century.unless generating profit for big companies is more important than helping patients, particularly those with a low income. Rarely have the club’s activities caused problems when compared to the immeasurable benefits the club has on its members.  Indeed, taking care of the sick, vulnerable and elderly makes the entire community a happier and better place to live.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my situation and I truly hope you grant the club a temporary exemption.

Have a pleasant day.

Your Name
Your Contact Information.

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