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The History of the Cannabis Buyers Club & Hempology 101

By Hempology | January 18, 2005

by Ted Smith (re-print from Jan issue of Cannabis Health Magazine)

Hempology 101 started weekly meetings in Vancouver in November 1994, and I attended my first meeting in January 1995. By Sept I had decided to host the Wednesday night meetings in downtown Victoria and volunteered to write a Hempology 101 textbook.

With my involvement in the movement, I met a woman who made cannabis-infused salve and cookies and in January 1996, we decided to start the Cannabis Buyers Club. The CBC was the first public medical cannabis club in Canada complete with a pamphlet and a pager number. I found a downtown apartment a couple of months later in Victoria, but more thieves appeared than donors in those first few years and the services of the club stayed quite limited.

The CBC believes it is unfair to require a doctor�s recommendation, in order to access cannabis, from someone who suffers from a permanent, physical disability or disease. Doctors are reluctant to endorse cannabis, primarily because they have been warned by the College of Physicians and Surgeons not to promote the herb. Conservative doctors don�t want a smoked plant to be considered a medicine; and especially not if people enjoy the process. A lack of quality research has limited the medical community�s ability to understand cannabis and patients lacking a reliable supply of cannabis products cannot prove to their doctors that the herb helps them feel better. Without watching people improve their lives by using cannabis, physicians have little information.

Theo and Mordici �the Muffin Man� started a service in Vancouver in the summer of 1996 called the Vancouver Medical Marijuana Coalition; however the original team did not last long. When Hillary Black returned from Europe she joined Theo to form the Vancouver Medical Marijuana Buyer�s Club. Doctor�s recommendations were requested for some conditions and the name was changed to the Cannabis Compassion Club. The group incorporated as the B.C. Compassion Club Society in 1997.

Hempology 101 and the CBC made slow, steady progress in the early years. Many questioned my actions as I chose to fight for legalization with Hempology 101. I�ve attended public rallies where I have been known to smoke joints and pass out cookies. I believe that the responsible use of quality cannabis gives more benefits than harm to the average healthy person. However, under the circumstances I believe that the most vulnerable and ill of our citizens should not have to wait for the laws to change, or their doctor to become supportive, before they gain access to a club. By limiting membership in the club to people with incurable medical problems we hope to take the first step towards full legalization. Since the early days some people believed the CBC went too far and groups like Hempology 101 should be kept distant from medical suppliers.

On November 8, 2000, I was arrested and charged with trafficking for sharing a few joints after a weekly 101 Club 4:20 Hempology meeting at the University of Victoria. One week later, on International Medical Marijuana Day, I was arrested and charged again for trafficking, this time for giving pot cookies away.

In March 2001, while issuing a warrant in another apartment in my building, Victoria police advised me to move CBC to a storefront. We very quickly set the club up behind a downtown bookstore and began developing the world�s best edible and skin products.

On Jan 1, 2002, I cut-off a member caught re-selling beside the store. When he came back two days later, it resulted in an awkward police search and seizure, which put the club in debt but did not shut the doors. Warrants were issued in March and June of 2002, which again put the club in more debt and worried the membership.

We petitioned city hall relentlessly. Council passed a resolution stating support of medical cannabis and requested Health Canada to send a representative to Victoria to explain the M.M.A.R. After the June raid, I ran for mayor of Victoria in an attempt to prove I was not a criminal. Another raid in Feb 2003 made us feel like we had a gun pointed to our heads even though they had never pulled a gun during a raid. We kept working through it all.

My constitutional challenge had been delayed pending a Supreme Court decision in Clay/Caine/Malmo-Levine and in the summer of 2003 a technical argument was successful in getting charges dropped from the June 2002 raid. On Dec 23, 2003, the Supreme Court 6-3 decision in favour of the cannabis laws signaled the beginning of my trials. We managed to get the Jan 2002 trial set first.

Arguments began in May, with police admitting I was cooperative and the club �was run like a pharmacy.� I testified that we spent years publicly advocating, we opened the store after police told us to, and I argued that requiring a doctor�s recommendations to use cannabis was an unreasonable barrier to place upon someone already diagnosed with an incurable medical problem. Dr. James Geiwitz testified as an expert witness and educated the judge about the effects of cannabis. On Sept 7, 2004, Justice Chaperon granted a judicial acquittal to Colby Budda and me, since the person who brought the police to our door was cut-off for re-selling. She recognized our motives were not for profit but for helping sick people only.

No cannabis from Health Canada was available until the summer of 2003, which means before then, clubs like ours were the only option for anyone with a legitimate medical need. Charges from the March 2002 and Feb 2003 raids should get dropped in 2005.

The day after our acquittal, B.C. Solicitor General, Rich Coleman was asked if pot stores would be allowed to continue, considering Chaperon�s decision. His response was that sick people could get their pot from Health Canada and anyone openly selling pot would be shut down. The next day the Da Kine in Vancouver was raided, and though it reopened, it eventually closed because of police and media pressure.

Unfortunately, the Da Kine attempted to use the medical issue to shield commercial activities. By requiring members to sign forms stating they suffer from problems such as road rage and referring to the caf� as a compassion club, the Da Kine operators did not portray medical cannabis clubs as legitimate. It is ironic as I find myself criticizing Da Kine after years of being told by V.I.C.S. that ��simply requiring a diagnosis of condition leaves too much room for abuse in an already contentious treatment.�

Having convinced a judge that requiring a doctor�s recommendation from people suffering from incurable medical problems is unfair, we cannot help but wonder what the situation would be if our mandate were used across the country. According to some estimates, 1 million Canadians may need access to cannabis as medicine. Currently, the CBC assists about 1,700 people in Victoria and about 7,000 people are members of legitimate clubs across Canada. Statistically about 70,000 people in the Lower Mainland should have constitutional protection to use cannabis.

Establishing medical clubs is an important step in the legalization of cannabis. Hempology 101 and CBC will continue to work towards this end.

Topics: Articles, CD-5th, Winter 2005 | Comments Off

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