In a surprise move, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, has written to Victoria City council to support their request to grant the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club a temporary exemption. The VCBC has not complied with the new cannabis legislation because of dozens of problems with the new scheme that would force us to stop providing the critical medicines we offer at prices patients can afford. The letter dated Aug 31, 2020, was formally accepted on Thursday September 17th by city council, after which they voted unanimously to send a new letter to Health Canada to ask for special consideration to be given to the VCBC.
The VCBC was raided by the provincial enforcement arm of the law called the Community Safety Unit (CSU) in November 2019. After the raid, the organization went to city hall for assistance. In January 2020, a letter was sent from Victoria City Council to Minister Farnwroth, after the council voted to support the VCBC unanimously and without debate. Meanwhile, the club was raided again July 14. According to the letter from Minister Farnworth, he was responding seventh months late to City Council because the “letter was inadvertently misfiled.”
On the positive side, the letter states that Farnworth, “[has] raised this issue with [his] federal counterpart and encouraged exploration of a licence that could allow VCBC to continue providing certain services.” However, this support is limited, as he states earlier in the letter. “While I appreciate the intentions of your request for an exemption for the VCBC to continue its operations, the Province cannot authorize activities that are illegal under federal criminal law.” Hopefully there will be more comments made to the press about exactly where the provincial government stands and whether or not the club can expect further punitive measures while attempting to obtain this exemption from Health Canada.
Towards the end of the letter, Minister Farnworth points to one of the more obvious flaws faced by patients in the legal system, in person medical service for medical cannabis. Referring to a letter the Ministry of Public Safety had sent to us several months ago, he states, “…[the VCBC] may want to share their views about enabling medical users to access cannabis through a storefront.” The fact that patients can only legally obtain medical cannabis through the mail was one of the reasons a lower court in Alberta ruled that Health Canada’s programs were unconstitutional in June 2020, a decision that is under appeal.
Currently the club is in the process of collecting letters of support, patient testimonials, expert affidavits, and reports from companies within the legal cannabis industry describing the difficulties they have faced with Health Canada and its regulations. A package of these documents along with an explanation from the VCBC about how this transition could work will be submitted to Health Canada by the end of next month.
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