People who rely on the Victoria Buyers Cannabis Club for products that help with their medical conditions can breathe a sigh of relief. For the time being, at least.
Ted Smith, who founded the Victoria Buyers Cannabis Club in 1996, confirmed that his landlord has agreed to renew the lease at 826 Johnson St. for four more years, effective April 1.
The landlord, Skipper Properties Ltd., had indicated in February that the lease would not be renewed after receiving a letter from the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General threatening possible fines or jail time if the lease wasn’t terminated.
“Our lawyers convinced the landlord’s lawyers that we had reasonable grounds to fight the province’s decision,” Smith explained. “That’s the leg we’re standing on and we’ve never wavered from that since we started 25 years ago. We were really shocked that our landlord was ready to fight with us.
“We’re pleased that we don’t have to move and set up a tent at City Hall, which seemed to be our only option.”
The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club provides patients who have a certificate from their doctor – many suffering from cancer – more affordable and more potent products to help deal with their pain and conditions. Many of the products available since legalization in 2018 are limited in strength and or much more expensive than what the club provides, Smith noted.
“It was tempting to open to recreational use when cannabis was legalized,” Smith admitted. “But our focus was and always will be our patients.”
Smith has applied to Health Canada for an exemption that would allow the club to continue providing lower-cost products with higher doses. The club has been raided frequently since legalization.
He also needs the provincial government to provide an exemption as well, and has been lobbying B.C. cabinet ministers toward that end.
“I understand that some MLAs are advocating for an exemption,” he said. “Our local MLA Grace Lore has been very supportive.”
Smith credits daily protests that began outside the Ministry of Health offices on Feb. 17 for helping draw more attention to the situation.
“We were able to engage with people every day who didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. “The response was really good and very positive.”
That included causal conversations with staff waiting for traffic lights, he added.
Despite the legal obstacles on multiple fronts, Smith stressed he and his supporters will do everything in their power to continue to fight for patients’ rights to high-quality, low-cost cannabis medicine.
The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club serves between 3,000 and 3,500 clients a month, on average.