By Owen Smith
The long road of trials that made up the six year RvSmith constitutional challenge was about as successful as such a legal quest can be. The Supreme Court of Canada delivered a landmark ruling that affirmed patients rights to choose a logically safer form of their medicine. I was found not guilty and the products that I was making so many years ago are now more widely available than ever. Due to their inability to enforce cannabis prohibition in a constitutionally acceptable manner the government quickly scrambled to create a series of section 56 exemptions.
Health Canada’s haste in creating these limited exemptions should not be confused with the excitement shared amongst medical cannabis patients. Health Canada are not rejoicing; they were forced into providing patients with a way to access, and producers with a way to supply, cannabis oil.
We could not have achieved this feat without the help of many people. The cumulative costs exceeded $120,000, the vast majority of which came from the V-CBC. Over the nearly two decades that the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club has operated they have sought to use all accumulated funds to increase the quality of service for their membership; find new ways to educate the public and subsidize the cost of the medicine for those who can’t afford it. Because of this legal campaign, some of these membership benefits had to be cut, but members were generally happy to support this legal campaign as it sought to protect their only source for medicinal cannabis products.
In 2012 our first victory made the creation of these cannabis products legal for all patients in British Columbia. Our final victory in the Supreme Court of Canada spread this benefit to all patients Canada wide. The section 56 exemptions have passed the benefit along to licensed producers, five of whom have already been issued cannabis oil production licenses. It should be a historical note of importance that an effort that has helped so many and received such widespread acceptance came from a small group of chronically ill yet incredibly resilient Canadians.
For this reason we are even more grateful for the support that we did receive through online fund raising using the Gofundme the platform; cheques sent directly to our lawyer, Kirk Tousaw; and through events like the “Canadian Concentrate Open”. The Gofundme effort has collected $9,286 from 95 people over the last eight months. We received support in the form of cheques sent directly in the mail from parties that would prefer to remain anonymous but also $5000 came from Dana Larsen’s Vancouver dispensary society and Jade Ridge donated $500. Red Beard of Red Beard Glass and the Great Canadian Glass Gathering, created a custom cookie monster Bong and auctioned off to Rob Wadell of Planetary Pride for $3000 which went toward the cause. Perhaps the largest contribution beside that of the V-CBC came from a series of “Canadian Concentrate Open’s” totalling approximately $10,000.
Our experience serves as an example for others who may be unjustly charged of a cannabis crime and choose to launch a quest to dismantle the spectre stalked institutions of cannabis prohibition. The illusion of dried marihuana that was banished by the facts established by expert witnesses and confirmed by all levels of the judiciary has been recast by Health Canada in their section 56 exemptions along with a new and equally dubious concept named “fresh marijuana”. This insistence toward vague concepts coupled with the government lawyers repeated requests that prosecutor discretion should be the authority when choosing to charge people, makes the likelihood of more constitutional challenges like my own seem high.
I hope your experience following this lengthy legal crusade has been educational and inspiring. I hope that you would consider supporting similar efforts in the near future if they arise. I hope that they never do. A change in government at this year’s Federal election in Canada could go a long way toward ensuring that every little detail, however important, doesn’t need six years of highly expensive court proceedings to become a reality.