On Monday Feb 22, 2016, the City of Victoria will be hosting a town hall meeting to give citizens an opportunity to meet with municipal politicians to discuss the new medical cannabis bylaws. With as many as 34 dispensaries openly operating in Victoria, the city is attempting to follow the lead of Vancouver by creating bylaws to control the blossoming industry. This will be a very important meeting for those wishing to inform the council about the importance of the safe inhalation room, edibles and home deliveries, which were recommended to be prohibited in the original staff report.
This will not be a full public hearing, like the City of Vancouver held last summer. Instead the main room at city hall will be set up with displays focused on specific sections of the regulations and city council will be walking around to meet one-on-one with citizens. There will be no presentations or speeches. For those that want to ensure all of the council hears their concerns and that their points are put on the record, written submissions remain the best means to provide information and opinions about the proposed regulations.
For members of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, the evening will be a mixture of celebration and frustration. Though the club is very happy to obtain a license from the city, many of the proposed regulations could have a very serious negative impact on the services the club provides and the health of its members. Hopefully the combined efforts of many members and supporters will convince the council to make some amendments or exceptions.
There are several proposed regulations that are a concern. One of the suggestions is not to allow the consumption of cannabis in a dispensary. Another proposed bylaw will stop the sale of edible cannabis products like cookies and brownies. A complete ban on deliveries or mail orders is also contained in these potential rules. Youth under the age of 19 will not be permitted inside, even with the supervision of an adult. Clubs will not be allowed to operate within 300 meters of each other or a school.
After reading some Cannabis Digest blogs last fall, it appears as though the council is ready to reconsider its position on edibles and deliveries, but the regulations as proposed by the city staff remain unchanged for the time being. After the VCBC unanimously won its famous extract case before the Supreme Court of Canada last year, it would be terrible to see the new rules eliminate many food products its members have come to rely upon. Hopefully the council will adopt the provisions created for edibles by the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, which provide reasonable guidelines for the production, packaging and labeling of cannabis food products.
There is hope the council has realized how unfair it is to stop delivering medicine to patients trapped at home or in the hospital, but at a council meeting last year none of the municipal politicians spoke up about allowing mail orders to continue. It would be very unfair to the most sick and vulnerable patients to stop deliveries and mail orders. It is ironic that the Health Canada claims mail order is the only safe means to distribute cannabis as medicine and that storefronts have too many risks.
Patients with children should also be allowed to bring their kids into a dispensary, just like any other establishment. It is absurd to force single parents to make other arrangements to simply purchase their medicine, especially in facilities where there is absolutely no smoking at all. This policy is based on misguided fears that cannabis is dangerous and that youth are not able to understand it is a medicine.
Undoubtedly the biggest concern for many VCBC members is the potential loss of the safe inhalation room. For years the club has provided a safe, clean place for members to use their medicine. Many patients renting rooms would be forced to go outside if not for the space. The reasons members appreciate this room are as diverse as the membership itself. From teaching new patients how to inhale, to showing old members new tricks, from providing rare social contact, to learning of the social services network, this special room has given many people a comfortable space to relax and medicate. It is a sanctuary, a refuge from the world where patients feel safe, supported and welcome.
It is the safe inhalation room that truly makes the VCBC a club and not just a store selling products. The room gives staff and members an opportunity to interact, helping the organization constantly improve upon its products and services. This space has become a second home for many, a place to meet new friends and old, a place the members know they belong and where they will be protected. It would be a terrible shame to see the VCBC lose this room when there have been no significant problems from it.
We have created a facebook event page to bring attention to this very important meeting. Updates and media reports will be added to the page to help everyone understand the process. Everyone hopes the council makes the necessary changes or amendments to allow the VCBC to continue operating as it has for the 20 years it has been in operation but that will only happen if enough people show up to persuade them.
The City of Victoria town hall meeting on the proposed medical cannabis dispensary regulations will be held from 7 to 9 pm, with the doors opening at 6 pm on Mon Feb 22, 2015.