(read the entire proclamation at the bottom of the page)
By Ted Smith
Since 1995 I have attempted to use International Medical Marijuana Day to raise awareness about the issues faced by medical cannabis patients, often raising funds to help pay for court costs. While the day has never been celebrated much beyond Victoria, it is my hope that as time goes by others will see the value in setting aside a specific day of the year for everyone to pay attention to those suffering in pain and fighting the government for better access to their medicine. Never has this been so important for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club as right now, for in just over a month former head baker Owen Smith will stand before the Supreme Court of Canada in the first medical cannabis case heard before the high court in history.
In 2002, I figured out how easy it was to write a proclamation and ask the city council to endorse it. After quickly writing one up, the council had their lawyer tone it down a little bit before passing the declaration supporting medical cannabis patients. Since that time I have gradually changed the words, making the statements much stronger than even the original, but the council has not questioned what it says anymore. Hopefully soon more activists will approach their local city councils with similar proclamations and we can make this something like Pride Day for sick cannabis consumers.
The first year we held a rally for International Medical Marijuana Day on Nov 15, as we had received information that similar rallies were being held in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. on that date. Unfortunately, despite several attempts over the years, very little direct communication has taken place between myself and activists organizing events in the US. Even when a few years ago after information came to me that US activists were switching the dates to Feb and trying to make a whole week of it, I changed our dates hoping we could all work together a little bit more. After years of being frustrated trying to coordinate with others, a couple of years ago I decided to move the date to March 17, traditionally known as St Patrick’s Day, in an attempt to give cannabis lovers something to celebrate other than the catholics beating the pagans out of Ireland.
Every year since 1995 I have made presentations to the Victoria City council just before International Medical Marijuana Day. It was at the city council meeting in Nov 1996 that I introduced the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club to council, showing them salve and telling them how important cookies were to AIDS patients. It gives me an opportunity to update council on any legal or political developments that might interest them, and to thank them for the proclamation. Having a good relationship with the city council has proven beneficial in many ways.
Another successful strategy has been pot cookie giveaways, though I do not do them anymore. I came up with the idea in 1999 and made 101 cookies that I gave away in the front lobby of the Victoria Public Library in full view of the media and police. The officer told the media that when cannabis is cooked the THC is burnt off and they cannot test it anymore.
This was entirely false, but it led me to think I would not get busted, so I made 420 cookies the next year. With all of the media attention, the police felt they had to act and I was arrested as soon as I got to the rally. I was charged with possession of THC for the purposes of trafficking and eventually convicted by a jury after a week trial. My sentence was a day in jail, which really was less than 3 hours.
One of the best ideas I have come up with for International Medical Marijuana Day has been a silent art auction to raise money for court costs. Over the years we have raised thousands of dollars worth of local art, helping defer the costs of the VCBC trials. This is an excellent opportunity for people to donate their artwork, from jewelry to sculpture, that often sell for far less than retail value. This year we plan on hosting another silent art auction at the club and will also try one on-line for people not able to get to Victoria to bid.
The timing this year is perfect, as we will be in Ottawa just 3 days later watching lawyer Kirk Tousaw argue Health Canada`s regulations are unconstitutional because they do not allow the use of cannabis derivatives. With the VCBC behind the first ever medical cannabis case before the Supreme Court of Canada, the organization is keen to see how the court rules on this very important matter. Hopefully it will also help with some last minute fundraising, too.
A rally to celebrate International Medical Marijuana Day will be held at high noon on Tues March 17 at the Ministry of Health in downtown Victoria. A raffle will be held at the same time. The silent art auction, which is held at 826 Johnson St, will end that day at 4:20 pm as well.