Victoria’s medicinal marijuana dispensary is pulling back the curtain on its operations to argue strict new federal rules won’t meet the needs of patients with cancer, AIDS and chronic pain problems.
The Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada chose to publish its operations manual on the same day Health Canada released its revised medicinal marijuana regulations last week.
The new regulations, which take effect April 1, 2014, will outlaw homegrown marijuana which will in turn drive up costs and restrict access to already-isolated patients, said Ted Smith, buyers club proprietor.
“We’ve been doing this for 17 years, and a lot of people have questions about how we do things. So we wanted to be as transparent and as helpful as possible,” Smith said. “We’re a non-profit society providing a service to sick people.”
The manual includes a list of documents describing how the plant should be grown, inspected and made into a usable product, as well as policies on how to sign-up new members, conduct security, clean and handle marijuana.
“Part of what we want to show is there are reasonable means of distributing this medicine that are more responsible than the one the federal government has outlined,” Smith said.
Under the new rules, medicinal users will only be able to purchase dried marijuana from approved commercial producers. By outlawing homegrown sources, many patients will soon need to rely on mail-order delivery as well, Smith said.
“Whether you’re smoking it or eating it or applying it topically, there are so many ways you can use cannabis. It’s unfair to assume someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer can learn how to use this medicine from a piece of paper or website and deal with everything else going on at the same time,” he said.
The Victoria-based club provides marijuana to medicinal users to alleviate pain and discomfort. Users can smoke, vapourize, consume baked goods or use topical oils and creams for limited medical conditions that must be approved by a doctor.
Smith and his colleagues won a lengthy legal battle in 2012 that allows them to produce cookies and other alternative marijuana products in the dispensary.
The B.C. court of appeal is set to review that case Oct. 17, and Smith hopes it eventually reaches the Supreme Court of Canada.
“As long as the government doesn’t allow for extracts and people can’t buy cookies or massage oils off a commercial producer, there’s a role for dispensaries. Until that gaping hole is dealt with, we have a necessary role to play.”