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By Hempology | January 16, 2005

On the face of it, Philippe Lucas, left, and Ted Smith, right, share common cause. They are both passionate in their belief in medical marijuana, to the extent that both have faced criminal prosecution in pursuit of their convictions. Why, then, do they barely talk to each other? Times Coloniststaff writer Richard Watts examined the lives and styles of both men and found the two crusaders separated by a yawning philosophical gulf.

BY RICHARD WATTS Times Colonist staff

Ted Smith stopped cutting his hair when he was 15, while Philippe Lucas looks like he just came from the barber.
Other than that superficial difference, the two men would seem to have much in common. Both are champions of marijuana in Victoria. Theyre both 35 and have founded clubs to supply pot to people who need it to alleviate medical symptoms. Both have faced criminal charges as a consequence, since medical marijuana users are supposed to obtain their pot from the government.
Smiths Cannabis Buyers Club works out of a storefront on Johnson, while Lucas Vancouver Island Compassion Society is just a short step away on Cormorant Street.
But the philosophical gulf that divides them is much wider.
Lucas is determined to secure legitimacy for medicinal marijuana, but hes reluctant to thumb his nose at the law. Smith, however, isnt afraid to bend the rules if it means relieving someones suffering. A gangling six-foot-two with long arms, big square hands and a pony tail hanging down to the small of his back, Smith couch-surfs between a friends home in James Bay and his girlfriends place in Cobble Hill. Lucas, a compact five-foot-two with the body of a squash player, shares a penthouse apartment with his wife in Oak Bay.
The two once worked together, helping operate a network to ensure sick or disabled people had access to marijuana. That ended in about 1999, when Lucas left to start a new group, one where members needed a signed recommendation from a doctor to try marijuana.
Neither will go on the record about the others beliefs or activities. But its clear the two rarely speak to each other, even though their operations are located less than a block apart.
Their differences are as much about style as about background and substance.
Smith comes from small-town Canada, while Lucas was raised in cosmopolitan privilege.
Smith grew up in Cambridge, a small Ontario farm town. His father worked for a trucking company and most of his uncles, aunts and cousins are farmers. He attended the United Church of Canada on Sundays, played hockey on Saturdays and attended school in between.
He was a scout, captain of the under-19 chess club and high school valedictorian.
He was also the first in his family to attend university, which he did over the objections of his father You dont need to go to school to make money. You work to make money. Smith graduated with a B.A. in philosophy from Wilfred Laurier where he also played rugby for the varsity first team.
Lucas, meanwhile, comes from the upscale Montreal suburb of Mount Royal. One of his earliest memories was campaigning for his Progressive Conservative mother in a federal byelection. He later attended high school in Boston and Philadelphia after his mother was appointed Canadian consul general in those cities.
He attended Concordia and Carleton as well as Quebecs Bishops University, studying English literature before moving out west to satisfy his curiosity about the coast. He has lived in London, where he worked on a screenplay, and knows and loves New York City.
Upon landing in B.C., he took to the ski hills, briefly attended the University of British Columbia and lived in Kitsilano.
Smith moved west to get away from a place where he was losing control over alcohol. Depressed by the death of his best friend, a fellow rugby club member, he moved to B.C., where he first planted trees. Smith has since given up alcohol and hasnt had a drink in years.
He arrived in Victoria in 1995, first living out of his van and picking daffodils. His political activism began soon after with Inner City Youth Works, and he went on head up the Victoria Street Community Association, two groups that later collapsed.
It was from those groups that he became involved in medical marijuana advocacy, beginning in 1996 from an apartment.
Lucas also had some serious issues with alcohol, but for him the biggest blow came in 1995, when his father committed suicide while drunk and depressed. Also that year, while Lucas was studying for an education degree at the University of Victoria, he learned he had hepatitis C, which hed contracted back in the 1980s from a blood transfusion.
The loss of his father and onset of the chronic liver disease pushed him to give up alcohol and gave impetus to his interest in medicinal marijuana he found pot helped with the nausea.
He now holds a Health Canada official exemption that allows him to possess the substance to treat his illness. And he admits to using it daily.
Smith began smoking pot regularly back in high school. Even in university, among the beer-drinking rugby set he was known as acid-head Ted, although he says he never consumed a lot of LSD.
Marijuana was something he leaned on to deal with alcoholism and depression and some sports injuries. But today, he wont admit to using it because of parole conditions.
The split between the two men hinges on the Compassion Clubs requirement that members carry a doctors note recommending medical marijuana.
For Smith, the idea of turning people away, especially when so many were ill or living on disability pensions, was cruel.
So he researched a list of diseases and conditions with symptoms that might be relieved with marijuana. And now, to join the Cannabis Buyers Club, all thats required is proof of illness or disability anything from a doctors verification of illness to a note from the welfare office describing a special diet allowance.
Smiths Cannabis Buyers Club has a membership list of 1,800, an estimated 60 per cent of whom live on disability pensions.
LucasVancouver Island Compassion Society has only 449 members, half of whom live on disability pensions.
But while Smith cant say for certain how many of the names on his list are still valid he estimates about 400 memberships are no longer active Lucas has an up-to-date members list, as well as a list of 130 doctors in Victoria who have been willing to provide written recommendations that patients try cannabis.
That level of organization allows Lucass group to work on university research projects on topics such as marijuana use and hepatitis C, and the effects of marijuana smoking on nausea in pregnancy. Lucas also gets invited to speak widely overseas about the clubs activities.
Smiths club is a little on the dark, almost seedy side. The storefront is industrial-looking, full of cast-off furniture. Posters on the wall make it look like a student council office. It also has a little back room where members puff on their prescriptions.
Lucas Compassion Society is bright, airy and full of neat racks of pamphlets, blonde-wood furniture and magazines. It has a large space in back with stacking chairs for meetings. It is, after all, a political organization.
But while cannabis can be purchased on site, smoking on or even near the premises is strictly forbidden.
Lucas says he has tried to make the premises more inviting to people trying marijuana for the first time. And as long as marijuana laws remain in force, he believes club members should respect authority by not smoking on the premises a rule he credits for the fact the club has never drawn a single complaint.
Even when he was arrested and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking back in 2000, it was Lucass own complaint that led to the charge.
The club, based in Oak Bay then, suffered a break-in and Lucas reported it. Later, Oak Bay police called to say they had recovered his marijuana. When Lucas claimed it, they charged him. He pleaded guilty, presented a detailed case and was granted an absolute discharge.
Smiths activities have inspired at least two complaints to police. In court in the past few weeks, hes been rebuked by judges frustrated by his unwillingness to adhere to procedure or even present evidence.
Earlier this month, he was found guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking, and this week, hes expecting a verdict on a charge of trafficking in cannabis.
Smith admits he may have been overconfident after a similar case last September, when he and his counsel provided enough testimony, witnesses and evidence to convince another judge to grant a stay.
Now hes working on an appeal as well as getting ready for another charge connected with the distribution of potcookies at a rally at the Victoria library.
Lucas will have his own case heard in the coming months, after RCMP raided the Compassion Clubs grow operation in Sooke back in May.
It was an operation that Lucas proudly says allowed the club to operate completely free of the black market for 18 months. During that time, every scrap of marijuana grown and sold was accounted for in club records.
Its all part of Lucas determination to normalize the use of medicinal marijuana.
I really believe you have to be pragmatic about your politics, he said. There is always the push and pull of drug policy reform.
Marc Emery, noted marijuana activist, president of the B.C. Marijuana Party and publisher of the glossy magazine Cannabis Culture, knows both Lucas and Smith.
For Emery, the two represent two faces of the same issue.
Emery, who has been charged 22 times and recently served three months in jail for passing a joint in Saskatoon, likened marijuana activism to the gay movement a decade ago: Lots of people smoke marijuana, or have smoked it. And most Canadians believe it should be legalized. But right now, few are willing to risk job, security and reputation to even write a letter to the editor in favour of it.
That leaves people like Lucas and Smith, as different as they are, to stand up and speak out. They are coming out of the closet and being counted and having their opinions noted, said Emery, adding in any movement or cause, a few activists do all the heavy lifting.
Ted is one of the ones doing all the heavy lifting, he said. Philippe, hes just more low key.

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