By Ted Smith
Most of us identify who we are by what we do for work. Most people with a trade or skill in the cannabis industry have no problem helping others understand what they do by using a simple label like a grower, dealer or employee in a vapor lounge. My work, though, is so much different from anyone else’s in the country that I thought to take some time to explain it.
My employer is the International Hempology 101 Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about this precious plant. For years I was also the owner of a dispensary and this paper was created to help educated patients and others about developing court cases, politics, research and cannabis activism. However, 2 ½ years ago I turned the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club into a non-profit society as well, and have focused on Hempology 101 activities since.
Three years ago, when I was preparing the dispensary for these changes, my book, HEMPOLOGY 101: THE HISTORY AND USES OF CANNABIS SATIVA, was coming out and it was my hope that it would help sustain me as an activist when I left the club. It was my dream of have Hempology 101 clubs at universities around the world. Dragging my lover, Gayle, with me, I toured around for a year, hosting conventions, organizing book signings and going to events.
Then Gayle became quite ill with cancer and I had to pull back from tours and much of my work with Hempology 101 to look after her. She has become my number one priority. While I have had to quit many activities, like teaching a free, non-credit lecture series at the University of Victoria, I was still able to publish the newspaper from our place in the country.
During this time Owen Smith was working with the VCBC, until just over a year ago when he left the group and started working with Hempology 101, and the Cannabis Digest in particular. The VCBC has agreed to help us do our work by covering his part-time wages until we can get the CD able to pay for our wages. He took over the layout of the newspaper, which was a natural progression of his skills making posters.
At that point we decided to add blogs to our content, as the newspaper only prints 4 times a year. We have not been able to keep up with producing one a day, although we did for the first 9 months. The blogs have certainly improved our ability to educate the public about developments in the legal, political, medical and activist fields. With over half a million visits in the first year, our growth has been well received. But there is a lot more potential.
While it has always been our dream to get online advertisers to take advantage of the traffic, we have not focused on selling ads. In fact, I have not really focused much on advertisers for the newspaper, which is why it has always struggled to pay for itself. Most of the advertisers are my friends who support the work our team does to educate the public. Few actually advertise because they think it will bring them more business, though I certainly hope our dedicated readers support the companies they see here supporting us. Meanwhile, our amazing group of friends has been financially supporting us so I can look after Gayle without worrying about money. It has been humbling to be living off the charity of others but I have little choice as she need full-time care, and I cannot seem to get the paper to do much more than pay for itself at this point. Luckily there are enough other incredible people in our circles that we have been able to pay for all we have needed to survive this ordeal.
Now that Gayle’s health is improving and the court case is over, it appears I have more time to work. Instead of trying to make money, though, it looks like my time will be spent working with NORML Canada in an attempt to help the legal community work together more effectively as we continue to use the courts to undermine these laws. Being with NORML Canada gives me an opportunity to work with some exceptional, serious activists across the country.
As publisher of this newspaper, I am not only reporting the news but I am helping to create the news. Being part of the story that the Cannabis Digest is telling puts me in the unique position of being the content, writer, editor and reader. Not only am I reporting on the legalization of cannabis, I am making it happen and learning at the same time.
Whether it has been managing Owen’s trial, looking after Gayle, writing blogs, seeking new advertisers, sharing old articles on-line, distributing the paper, organizing rallies or providing advice to others in the industry, my work covers a wide range of activities that support the cannabis field and those who work in it. It is a lifestyle more than a regular job. My work, my dreams, my love, all of these things are combined in one magical journey.