Substance Use Researchers Support VCBC Request for Exemption from Cannabis Act


The VCBC has received a powerful letter of support from allies at the University of Victoria, researchers in substance use and harm reduction who agree that the VCBC deserves an exemption from the Cannabis Act.  These researchers go on to argue that the VCBC ought not to be punished for providing a necessary service to our community and those most in need of support.  Spearheaded by. Dr. Marilou Gagnon, this letter was signed by several researchers working from the Canadian Institute of Substance Use Research and was addressed to the members of the provincial and federal government in support of our Exemption Application. Last year we submitted our application to Health Canada requesting that our non-profit medical compassion club be exempt from the Cannabis Act and to negotiate a pathway to a license with Health Canada so we could continue to operate our storefront medical dispensary and to provide medicines with a much higher dose than the current 10mg limit.

A year ago we submitted our Exemption application filled with over 300 letters of support from patients and their caregivers.  We received letters of support from our local government, other harm reduction and patient advocay assosications, as well as letters from medical practioners and an economic review of the viability of compassion clubs as a distribution model. We have not heard from Health Canada in over a year. 

In case you had not heard, we have received a fine from the British Columbia Community Safety Unit (CSU) on January 24th, 2022 for providing medicines outside the legal system.  The BC Cannabis Control and Licensing Act gives the province the ability to impose fines for non-compliance with the legal recreational scheme. Using a formula that adds the estimated value of seized products from the raids in 2019 and 2022, the  CSU estimates sales over a period of time and then doubles the number to determine the fine. The executive director of the Community Safety Unit, Jamie Lipp, has issued a fine of $3,235,465.74 to the society as well as a separate fine of the same amount to Ted Smith, founder of the VCBC. 

For context, in 2016 Teck Metals was fined $3.4 million for polluting heavy metals into the Columbia River in Trail, BC (Source: Mark Hume, Globe and Mail, February 2016).  We have been fined $6.5 million dollars for providing medicine to patients where the government refuses to, while the medical system is crumbling across the country and the opioid epidemic continues to surge. We have appealed the fine and are waiting for a hearing date.  Before that date we will be filing an application in another court to argue the federal medical cannabis system is unconstitutional for being inaccessible and having low THC limits.

We want to thank Dr. Marilou Gagnon, Dr. Bernie Pauly, Dr. Zach Walsh, Dr. M-J Milloy, and Dr. Tim Stockwell for this letter of support during one of the most significant and precedent setting periods in our club’s history.