Members and supporters of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club gathered at the B.C. legislature Wednesday to draw attention to issues they say remain in the cannabis legalization framework, largely due to what they see as over-regulation.
The annual 420 event – the date is significant in cannabis culture and has been the centre of calls for legalization and liberalization of cannabis regulations – featured a party-like atmosphere.
Around 100 people enjoyed loud music, with many partaking legally, filling the air with smoke. But as speakers took the to the mic, the mood briefly turned to more serious matters.
Organizer Ted Smith, one of those speakers, said later in an interview that despite legalization, concerns remain about restrictions.
“To start with, the smoking regulations which stop a large group like this from gathering legally,” he said. “It’s unfortunate the government is only now starting consultations on places where people can gather and legally consume cannabis, that should have been on the table from the very beginning.”
There are also still issues around medical cannabis, he added. Since legalization, medical cannabis users have lost access to high-quality, low-cost products, which Smith said have been replaced with lower-quality, higher-cost recreational cannabis, especially when it comes to edibles.
“After years of fighting in court for their medical use, patients have been turned into dollar signs and governments and large companies have seen this as an opportunity to cash in and make money off of people. Providing medicine to people at a lower cost and lower taxes isn’t something businesses are interested in, it isn’t something government is interested in,” he said. “We are going to keep protesting until they have it right.”
The club, which Smith founded in 1996 for the purpose of supporting medical cannabis users by providing cheaper and higher-strength products, boasts more than 8,000 members. It has also butted heads with authorities over its own operations for many years.
Smith and the club were each fined over $3.2 million by the B.C. Community Safety Unit earlier this year for contravening the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.
Black Press Media previously reported that CSU officers attended the club’s 826 Johnson St. location on Nov. 14, 2019, and July 15, 2020, after the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch learned and confirmed there was no provincial license associated with the address. Cannabis products and club documents were seized on both occasions.
The CSU said there were no medical professionals operating onsite when officers attended and club was not licensed by Health Canada to sell medical cannabis at the time of the raids.