By Ted Smith
With a slim margin of 52 percent in favour and 48 percent opposed, the University of Victoria Hempology 101 Club has received the support of the student body to move the weekly Wednesday 420 meetings back to the center of campus. That does not mean we can just ignore the new smoking policy and go back home just yet, but it is our intent to move the 420 meetings back one way or another.
Though the UVSS Hempology 101 Club is the largest student club at UVic, the vote was a lot closer than many had predicted. In Jan. when the UVSS students council voted to support putting the question to the students in the form of a referendum, only two opposed the motion.
Right after the vote, outgoing UVSS President Tara Paterson wrote to the administration requesting an exemption from the smoking policy for the 420 gatherings. As of writing deadline, no response has been received. If the administration says no, then we will work with the new President, Emily Rogers, to look at our legal alternatives, which would include working with the school`s Ombudsman.
Many believe that the weekly 420 circles were the main target of a new smoking bylaw which was suddenly brought into place last summer. Campus security, who do not have the ability to enforce this bylaw, informed the group at the first 420 of the year that we had to move from the center of the campus to outside the Ring Road, preferably near the Student Union Building. This new bylaw has a clause that allows for exemptions for traditional ceremonies. We moved, believing that we would be able to convince the student body to support the 420 meetings getting such an exemption.
Starting a Hempology 101 Club at UVic was one of the first things I did after moving here in Sept. 1995. It was actually quite easy. I just needed enough books, magazines, and handouts to make an information booth. We learned it is helpful to have buttons to give to students for signing up, so each year we make a different design and everyone who joins the club gets one.
The weekly Weds 420 meetings started in Sept. 1998. We held them once a month, starting in Sept. 1997, until we figured it was time to push further. At first there were only three or four people brave enough to smoke with me, but gradually the numbers grew, until by the fall of 2000 it was a circle of 25 to 30 a week.
That was when the administration first tried to interrupt the meetings by getting the police to arrest me for trafficking cannabis. For those who do not know, sharing is trafficking. Undercover officers easily arrested me for passing around a few joints at the Nov. 8, 2000 meeting. I was eventually convicted and fined $500. However, instead of getting scared away, the club exploded in popularity while I was gone, due in large part to the media attention we got.
Now the UVSS Hempology 101 Club has been the largest student club at UVic for four or five years, with some of the 420 gatherings last year over 350 strong. Normally I also teach a free, non-credit lecture series before the 420 meetings, though that was canceled this semester due to the court case. It will be back better than ever this fall, though, as we have booked the movie theatre, Cinecenta, from 3 to 4 p.m., so we can watch movies, Youtube clips or other productions as part of the lecture.
Our premier event of the year at UVic each year is the Cannabis Convention. This year we hosted our 13th. If you could not attend, the entire convention is on the Hempology 101 Youtube channel, along with all of the lectures and other conventions.
The highlight of this year’s convention for me was hearing the story of Blake Hunter and his family in Saskatchewan. He is the founder of Good Seed Hemp. When I started this work 16 years ago, hemp was still illegal to grow in Canada, and hearing stories like Blake ’s is a dream come true. Other speakers were Dana Larsen, Kyla Williams, and my love, Gayle Quin.
The only problem with this year ’s UVic convention was the timing. For the past two years we have held it at the end of International Medical Marijuana Week, which also happens to be Reading Week. Therefore, next year we will hold the convention in early Feb.
But that is not all Hempology 101 is doing. In fact, we are expanding every year.
Most recently, we have a new Hempology 101 club at Mount Allison University in Sacksville, New Brunswick. This is the first Hempology 101 club operating on a campus outside of B.C. and the first time a club has formed completely independently of us. After first forming a club called High Society, a student from there, Steve Faryna, contacted me asking questions about Hempology 101. Now they have changed their name and focus.
In his own words, “I have new found direction in life and am willing to fully dedicate myself to creating a reputable marijuana advocacy society here at Mount Allison University. I realize that Hempology 101 is not just a name, but also comes with a lot of work and will require sacrifices. I am willing to work hard and sacrifice much.”
We are very excited to help Steve make the Hempology 101 Club at Mount Allison University into one of the most popular at that school. In Nov., on the book tour, we will help organize a cannabis convention there, bringing activists from across the East Coast together to help empower the students.
Recently, we also hosted our second annual conventions at UBC and Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island University. It was the first year we organized three conventions, as last year the VIU event was canceled due to a University strike. It is my hope that in a few years I will spend a good part of each year touring around from one campus to another, teaching about the value of cannabis while helping people network.
Many of the top activists on the coast came to or helped with these conventions. Chris Bennett spoke at both the UBC and VIU conventions, and because he is a wealth of knowledge about the history of cannabis, I think he should speak at every large educational event we host.
Jodie Emery joined us in Vancouver to talk about Marc Emery’s plight and the war on drugs in general. At the UBC event, veteran activist Randy Caine spoke about his fight to bring medicine to the sick in Langley, and Dr. Paul Hornby shared his thoughts and experiences with cannabis in the lab.
The highlight of the VIU convention for me was Chris’s talk about hashish in Islam. John Anderson, chair of the VIU Criminology department, had an excellent presentation as well. With people like him on our side, I have no doubt we will succeed. Rebecca Ambrose, from the Vancouver and Victoria Seed Banks, described how the seed industry works, and Spencer Daemore from Green Harvest showed everyone how to make lavender hash. Andrew Brown, editor of this paper, opened the event by talking about the importance of the media.
We owe thanks to the UBC Social Justice Centre for once again booking a room for the convention at UBC. While we have a club there, we have unfortunately experienced a revolt from the executive that signed up last fall, because they wanted to focus on hemp only. This means we do not have someone with signing authority for the club to book rooms or use the budget. Fortunately, the UBC Hempology 101 Club is not really threatened, as all we have to do is sign up a new executive this fall. We will be putting in extra effort to meet herb-loving students this fall, and plan on having a meet-and-greet with students and activists at the Vapour Lounge to kick the year off.
The club at VIU is doing well but has not been very active. That will change with the publishing of the Hempology 101 Textbook and the general growth of the group across other schools. It is our hope to have Hempology 101 clubs at schools around the world, and the textbook will certainly be the key to that.
With the legalization movement gaining momentum, now is the time for Hempology 101 to bust a move. Legalize through education.
By Ted Smith