Compassion clubs in Victoria may be one step closer to escaping legal uncertainty after a ruling in the British Colombia Supreme Court declared sections of the national marijuana program to be unconstitutional.
The decision by Justice Marvyn Koenigsbergn to review the laws surrounding marijuana distribution is good news for Philippe Lucas and Ted Smith, who operate medicinal marijuana dispensaries in B.C. The law currently limits designated suppliers to distribute medicinal marijuana to one patient. Lucas and Smith hope this changes.
Currently Health Canada is the only provider who can legally distribute marijuana in Canada. Patients desiring medicinal marijuana need to fill out a 33-page application, acquire a passport photo and receive a recommendation from a physician.
Most compassion clubs do not follow these government mandates. “There’s the legal way and then there’s our way,” said Smith, who runs the Cannabis Buyer Clubs of Canada. His club provides medicinal marijuana for people with a diagnosis of a permanent physical disability or disease. “It’s based on a constitutional right to control what happens to your own body. We’re different from Health Canada. They want doctors to have control and we believe that it’s a patient’s right to choose.”
Lucas, the director for the Victoria Island Compassion Society, said the medical association has been one of the main obstacles for Canadians trying to gain medical marijuana. His non-profit organization is “a community-based patient-centered model of access.” He said he thinks the potential changes in the marijuana access regulations will have a “beneficial impact on the community.”
“Costs for prescription drugs are stupid,” Smith said. “If people could make their own cookies instead, they’ll feel better and the whole of society would be paying less for health care.”
Smith said he hopes Justice Koenigsberg’s decision will ease the regulations surrounding marijuana distribution.
“Obviously I want the whole thing to be legal,” he said. “But first Health Canada needs to let people in based on condition and not recommendation.”
Lucas admits that the laws surrounding marijuana are contentious, and believes that change will only come through the court system.
Besides his club, Smith also runs a free lecture out of the University of Victoria called Hempology 101. His lessons on cannabis prohibition are streamed online. He also facilitates a 4-20 club on the UVic campus that hosts around 200 kids. “The experience for the students has been really positive. It’s also been great for the cannabis community in reaching stages of legitimacy,” he said.
Lucas is currently doing research sponsored by the Centre of Addiction Research for British Colombia. Its main office for medical marijuana is on the UVic campus. His organization has published the most medical marijuana research in Canada
Neither Lucas or Smith show any signs of shutting down. “It’s really amazing to be helping people improve their lives,” Smith said.