A small rally held in July 2020 expressed anger and frustration with the province’s community safety unit after a raid at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club on July 15. (Black Press Media file photo)

A small rally held in July 2020 expressed anger and frustration with the province’s community safety unit after a raid at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club on July 15. (Black Press Media file photo)

Landlord terminating Victoria cannabis compassion club lease following pressure from province

Owner Ted Smith says clients need them, club won’t go down without a fight

For 25 years, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club has been providing Greater Victoria people with the means to treat chronic pain. Last week, they were told they must go.

Having existed long before cannabis was legalized in Canada, cannabis compassion clubs were created to provide safe access to medical marijuana in a time when its use was widely unaccepted. The clubs required patients to show medical documentation and, in return, gave them the products and community they needed to ease their pain.

Since legalization in 2018, Victoria’s club has been in a battle with the province and Health Canada to be exempt from federal standards – standards that owner Ted Smith said don’t meet clients needs.

“Our typical patient would be 55 or 60 years old with arthritis or other chronic pains and maybe a recent cancer diagnosis,” Smith said. In an average month, he said the club sees between 3,000 and 3,500 clients.

There are three main differences between the products Smith’s club provides and federally-regulated ones: price, potency and methods of use.

Looking at a standard package of two 5-milligram cannabis cookies at a regulated shop in Victoria, the cost is about $13. Smith said they sell a cookie with 60 to 65 milligrams for $2.50. The same can be said for the club’s other products – they are by far more affordable and more potent. The main reason for the difference in potency is that legalized cannabis products have a 10 milligram cap.

Smith said that limit is ridiculously low for some of his clients with severe pain, pointing out that the club often sells 130 milligram capsules to cancer patients. Higher quantities of THC can also serve as an alternative to opioid use, Smith said, noting the record number of overdose deaths in B.C. last year.

The club also carries certain products that aren’t widely available at legal dispensaries, including salves, creams and suppositories. Increasingly Smith said, they are having elderly people reaching out who want a way to ease their pain without having to smoke the product or break the bank.

The club has been raided multiple times since legalization, but on Feb. 8, Smith said, the club’s landlord received a letter from the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General threatening possible fines or jail time if they didn’t terminate the club’s lease.

The club has until the end of March to leave. “We’re preparing to fight for sure,” Smith said. “We’re not just gonna walk away from this.”

The club has been working on an application for exemption with a legal team for nearly a year, and expects it to be complete by the end of February. In the meantime, it’s planning on transitioning to mail order and intends to set up a tent outside city hall five days a week for sales.

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 17, the club planned to hold daily protests outside the Ministry of Health building.

Smith said the last time Victoria’s Cannabis Buyers Club heard from the province was last August, when Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth responded to a letter from the City of Victoria that implored his ministry to look into issuing the club an exemption. At that time, Farnworth wrote he had “encouraged exploration of a license” to his federal counterpart that could allow the club to continue to provide certain services.

Now, with its lease soon up, Smith said they are left angry and wondering.

cannabisVictoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A pedestrian pushing a child in a stroller was struck by a driver while crossing a Highway 1 off-ramp at Burnside Road West on Feb. 24. (Google Streetview)
Pedestrian with child in stroller struck by driver in Saanich crosswalk

Incident occurred in crosswalk in Highway 1 off-ramp at Burnside Road West

Sooke Road was down to single lane alternating traffic after a motor vehicle incident Wednesday morning. (Google Maps)
UPDATED: Sooke Road reopen after motor vehicle incident

Emergency crews were on scene of Wednesday morning incident

West Shore RCMP headquarters in Langford. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP arrests two suspects in connection to View Royal arson

Investigators determined the fire was deliberately set, targeted

Visitors to Island View Beach Regional Park in Central Saanich could end up paying for parking. (Black Press Media File)
Proposed parking fees for Island View Beach under fire

Central Saanich councillor says timing could not be worse

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

Mowi Canada West salmon farm in B.C. waters. Conservative MPs have backed an industry call for further discussions on the timeline for closing Discovery Island farms. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada)
Conservative MPs back B.C. salmon farmers’ call for transparent discussions

Farm owners requested consultations, more time to leave Discovery Islands

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

UBC Okanagan students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC.
(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
UBC Okanagan students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

A 19-year-old man is in police custody following a recent violent robbery and assault in Comox . (File photo)
Arrest made in violent robbery and assault of Comox gas station employee

19-year-old man in police custody after incident where woman was putting things in her car

COVID cases in the Bella Coola Valley have dropped to just four active cases (file photo)
Expanding social circles fuelling North Island COVID-19 spike

Comox Valley COVID spike the result of ‘a series of multiple social gatherings’

Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)
After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns

B.C. Ambulance Service says high-priority calls were still 10 minutes or less

Most Read