Longtime cannabis activist Ted Smith is running for a seat on Victoria city council to ensure the industry he helped build locally is properly represented when legalization takes effect this fall.
“Nobody in politics really knows anything about it,” says the founder of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club. “I see this as an opportunity to take the work I’ve done in cannabis and make it count.”
Smith, who studied economics at Sir Wilfred Laurier University, has been advocating on behalf of medicinal marijuana users since the mid-’90s.
Back then he also took an active role with the former Inner City Youth Work Society and for years sat on the City’s health and safety task force.
“The work I’ve been doing for decades has been very political in nature in Victoria,” Smith says. “I think I deserve a chance to sit at the table and help guide other issues.”
It’s the decades of experience in the cannabis industry that Smith feels could help substantially as the City transitions to managing the substance when it becomes legal, Oct. 17.
Compassion clubs who provide safe access to medical grade marijuana are at risk, he explains, because of regulations the federal government has outlined. Product must be supplied from licensed producers approved by Health Canada, but Smith says the standard concentrations of THC are too low, and leave longtime medicinal users in the lurch.
“Most patients need stronger medicines and we provide a wide range of alternatives to smoking,” he says, referring to the government’s outright ban of edibles. “Patients aren’t their prime concern, tax dollars seem to be.”
And when it comes to those tax dollars, Smith says senior levels of government have “downloaded” much of the work onto municipalities while leaving them to pick up the tab with expensive responsibilities like enforcement.
Still, housing, transportation and the economy are also on Smith’s radar.
“Without question the most pressing issue in the 2018 municipal election in Victoria is the lack of affordable housing,” he says.
Smith proposes densifying Douglas Street with residential, retail and commercial development to create what he calls a “high density corridor.”
Having attended meetings for the last few months, he says council is “finally catching on” to the fact that they have a responsibility to ensure development is executed fairly with the city’s low- and middle-income residents in mind.
The working class is being pushed out of Victoria, he says, and he’d like to see a policy enacted to ensure affordable units or amenities are required of any new proposals. The redevelopment of Crystal Pool, he says, will be the biggest project handled by the next council.
The former van-dweller who has eaten in “every soup kitchen in town” says he is motivated by the city’s extremely poor – the people that are “literally sick and dying in our community that no one seems to know what to do to help.”
“It’s a very complex situation that we find ourselves in,” he says. “Not just in Victoria, but globally.”
Inclusion and collaboration are key, he stresses, pointing to what he feels were errors in judgment when building bike lanes without consulting BC Transit or expecting the private sector to provide the bulk of affordable housing.
“When you’re on council there are a lot of responsibilities on the table and you can’t be a professional on them all, but there are experts that you can bring together to come up with the right decisions.”
The municipal election is Oct. 20.