E86 - Healing Communities Part 3 - The Cost of Compassion

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club (VCBC) is no stranger to defending the services that a compassion club can deliver. For decades, the VCBC has supported individuals with chronic and or life-threatening diseases by providing aid not available from government health systems. Kirk once again visits this west coast healing community. He examines how this celebrated organization is now fighting a $6.4 million fine levied against them as an unlicensed dispensary. Founder Ted Smith, a tenacious defender of human rights, explains this current challenge, the club’s relationships with growers, and the help his staff provides the medical cannabis community.

Wednesday, 01 June 2022 12:53

Meet our guest

Ted Smith

Research Links

Music By

Bob Marley
Desiree Dorion
Marc Clement

(Yes we have a SOCAN membership to use these songs all legal and proper like)

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Episode Transcript

Trevor: Kirk. We're back. 

Kirk: We're back. How are you, Trevor? 

Trevor: I'm well, and I haven't gone anywhere. But you're back in Manitoba. For those who have missed it, where are you been? 

Kirk: We spent two and a half months out on Vancouver Island visiting friends and relatives. We left in mid-February and we came back in the last week of April. So, we missed the two big storms that went through the community in the end of April there. 

Trevor: Yeah, we almost had Colorado low number three, but that seemed to have missed it. Interesting. Yeah. Nowhere near as bad as southern Manitoba, but we've even got a little bit of flooding in Dauphin. And I was working on the weekend and I rode my bike to work on Saturday morning through Vermilion Park. And on my way back, the little Vermilion River, it spilled over the banks. And I couldn't get through the bike path. And by the end of the day, the Vermillion Park was full of water. So, we got we got a little bit of water in town. 

Kirk: I walked through there yesterday. Yeah. We're not as bad as the southern part of the province. 

Trevor: So, speaking of you, being on the West Coast, you brought back an interview with a gentleman, Ted Smith. The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club. Why don't you tell us a little bit about Ted? 

Kirk: Well, let’s get him to introduce himself here. 

Ted Smith: I am, Ted Smith. Currently, my only very real title is the President and Founder of Victoria, Cannabis Buyers Club. 

Kirk: Listeners might remember that I had the opportunity to go to Vancouver Island a few years ago and we stopped in and we met the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club and we did a two part on them called the Healing Communities. And this is sort of and that was S3E4, back in April 2019 we launched that one. So, I went back and visited the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club and I got to meet their founder, Ted Smith. And Ted Smith: has been has been described as by Ted Talks. He did a TED Talk. He's been described as an advocate for human rights for decades.  Ted Smith is also the author of a cannabis textbook, The History and Uses of Cannabis Sativa called Hempology 101, which he gave me a signed autographed copy of. Thank you, Ted. He also, interestingly enough, you know, this story, this story, Trevor, is really about compassion and the lack of compassion and empathy our governments tend to have towards medical cannabis. The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, people remember from our first episode, they're kind of operating outside the law and the sense of Compassion Club and they are. 

Trevor: And have been for years. Like this is not new. 

Kirk: Decades. 1997 they started this and they've been to court many times and they've won many times. They even have a strategic plan. So, which he gave me, which is quite, quite phenomenal. And I want to explain, talk about the strategic plan later. But So, they're in a situation where they're being, well, I guess they've been arrested or charged is the word by the B.C. government for $6.4 million. So, let's just see what how the government is exercising compassion to a compassion club. So, let's listen to Ted talk a little bit about that. 

Ted Smith: It was really what got me into this work back in, I guess, 95. I attended some meetings of a group in Vancouver called Hempology 101 and it really struck a tone with me to educate people about cannabis. And So, I, you know, struck it out from there to go, to come to Victoria because that was in Vancouver. I moved here, started the club up at UVIC. Started writing the textbook and doing a number of other things that in a short time led me to do the Cannabis Buyers Club. And for a long time there I had the two organizations running concurrently. But then life happened and now I'm just focused on the Buyers Club. 

Kirk: Okay, So, we're back from that Trevor, and you can what I'd like to do is I'd like to pull a little bit of Julia. We met Julia at in the first episode and she talked a little bit about the Gestapo, Cannabis Gestapo that the B.C. government had. So, I just want to draw her in and we'll listen to her for a second. 

Trevor: Okay, back in time to Julia. 

Julia: This is a whole new industry that. And it's going to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. It's going to create a ton of jobs. It's safe. It's oh, there's So, many reasons. And it's unbelievable to see the provincial government not only be So, skittish on creating groundbreaking regulations, they are actually turning around and going the other way and being, you know, creating these cannabis inspectors, these particular, there's a new breed of Cannabis Gestapo.

Kirk: Really?

Julia: Oh, yeah. I'm not even kidding. They don't require a warrant to enter dispensary. They will come in and basically the threat that is, is made is if they find you operating without a recreational license or as a licensed producer with all of all those licenses and what not, they can literally shut you down. They will take all of your inventory and the value of that and usually find double that amount. You can get up to 14 years in jail. 

Kirk: Okay, you can see now the raid happened. All right. The raid happened. So, this is an organization that's used to being raided, but they've been left alone for quite a while. To the point that to the point at some place in this discussion, Ted talks about how the Victoria Police basically said 'Buddy, we're done with you, but we've turn you on to the tax department." So, so they got outed in the tax department, got audited. And that's one of the reasons why they had to do this strategic plan, which is quite phenomenal. So, maybe let's listen to Ted talk a little bit about from there. 

Trevor: Okay.

Ted Smith: Yeah, we've recently been fined a total of $6.5 million by the B.C. Canada Secretariat. And I guess, yeah, in response to two raids that we've been through and November 2019 and July 2020. And So, our society faces a fine of over 2.3 million. And I got my own $2.3 million fine. And yeah, we've been working with our lawyers to get some court applications in as we prepared to fight this next round. The way that they calculated this is they estimate how much they seized in the raids. And then they actually used our own computer to figure out how much we sold in between the raids and added all that up together to come up with about 1.6 million and then doubled that which gave them the 3.2 million. And then again, you know, it just kind of doubled down on me. So, the whole thing's close to 6.5. 

Kirk: Shit. I don't like it. So, what do you do with that? I mean, you you've been at this game since 1997. You've been in front of the Supreme Court. How do you wrestle with this one? 

Ted Smith: Well, in a way, it's in an interesting sort of academic exercise and that my life isn't threatened here with jail time, like I've been threatened with in the past for doing this work. And the risk is in what would happen to our members if they lost access to the medicine that we're providing right now. And so, yeah, it's something that, you know, I don't have that kind of money. I never will. That's not what I'm trying to do with my life. And So, it's ironic that they put such a big number in front of someone who's actually kind of gone out of their way in what could be a very lucrative situation, you know, not to to make money. And then So, they clearly can't get blood from a stone, although one of our board members does have a house that they may take. So, that's really. 

Kirk: That's a threat. 

Ted Smith: That's threatening to her to be sure. But, uh, it's something that, you know, she stepped up to the plate here knowing what would happen to patients if they lost access to this medicine, which is something that many of us aren't willing to let happen if we have anything to say about it. And So, the size of this fine, actually, in a way, works in our favor, because the bigger it is, the more ridiculous it is, the more attention we'll get for what they're doing, because it's So, grossly disproportionate to other fines for offenses where companies are found criminally negligent, causing death and environmental destruction that, you know, is far more, you know, harmful than providing medicine to sick people at a low cost. And so, you know, it's really So, disproportionate that the government, you know, loses credibility with the general public right there and even gives us arguments in court that they've gone beyond anything reasonable and how they're proceeding here. 

Kirk: All right. So, so the fine. $6 million. And what do you think about that? 

Trevor: Oh, it's phenomenally large. And I guess it makes sense legally, but it's sort of surprise, maybe not surprise me that that even one of their board members is now on the hook. Like their house is at risk. So, you know, this isn't, sometimes big numbers, like 6.4 million just sort of seem almost fictitious. But this is a real number and real risk. And, you know, at least one person might lose their house. 

Kirk: Yes. Yes. And people I guess you have to remember that when you are executives of society, you're ultimately responsible for the behavior of that society. So. Sure. Ted Smith: has a personal fine of $3.2 million and the organization has a has a cost of $3.2 million. But what I find amazing is how disproportionate that was. I did a quick, a very quick search. And from April 13th, 2020 to Winnipeg, Manitoba, the I guess it's Calcium Nickel Mining Ltd was ordered to pay $200,000 for radiation spillage and radiating fish. Fish that we eat. So, they got fined $200,000 in Manitoba for that. 

Trevor: Which is 30 times less than Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club. 30 times. 

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah, we can spill radiation into the water system and we can spank you with that. Meanwhile, a Compassion Club is demanded $6 million. But in getting closer to home in British Columbia, there was an organization, a trading company in British Columbia, that's basically harvesting shark fins. 

Trevor: I bet the sharks. The sharks don't like that much. 

Kirk: No. You know, they tend to sink. But 20,196 shark fins were carved off these living beings, and they were fined $75,000. So, let's put things in perspective here. 

Trevor: Yeah. So, that that's 100 times less than that. Ted's fine. 

Kirk: It blows my mind. So, Ted explains this situation because I asked him, I said, this seems really ridiculous. So, he explains it So, well to Ted explain this. 

Ted Smith: It's an interesting situation. We're dealing with a bureaucracy here that is unaccountable to the public or politicians or seemingly their own conscience. They seem to believe that adherence to the law is all that matters. No matter how poorly written those laws may be. And so, yeah, it's really. Yeah. Fascinating because the man in charge, I assume man because the name is Jamie. So, it can be a female. But the reason I say that is because we can't find out anything about this person. And they're in charge of the Cannabis Secretariat. No Facebook profile has no LinkedIn profile. There's no history that people have been able to find on this individual. You would think that the person in charge of the cannabis secretariat, not just the punishment, but like the whole deal, that's the one that's been behind this fine, that we're having hearing in front of. That should be the most popular person in British Columbia. 

Kirk: You'd think. 

Ted Smith: You'd think that they would be going around and, you know, cutting the ribbons on new facilities that were opening and. 

Kirk: New economic develop. 

Ted Smith: Bringing it forward to the public and helping, you know, people understand why things are proceeding like this. You know, having some type of presence, aside from being So, buried in the bureaucracy that we don't even have an even able to figure out the sex of this person. Yeah. 

Kirk: Isn't that interesting? 

Ted Smith: Right.

Kirk: So, this is showing the ignorance and how the government approach Cannabis eh.  

Ted Smith: Well, many things. But yeah, certainly in this file it's been dismal the way that the B.C. government in particular, as opposed to, you know, there was lots of warning leading up to legalization. But the day it was legal here in British Columbia, I don't think they even. 

Kirk: everything stopped. 

Ted Smith: No stores of it. Right. And then they had one that the government owned that was open for a little while before, you know, any commercial ones came alone. 

Kirk: Why do you think that is. 

Ted Smith: And even now, like April 20th, I talked to a couple of the legal stores who don't even have 250 bucks to advertise on April 20th because they've been So, drained by the government that their credit's just gone. 

Kirk: Cannabis was huge in the seventies and early part of the eighties. Everyone you know everywhere people are smoking cannabis.

Ted Smith: It always has been like, I've moved here and started Hempology, it was like the biggest industry in the province. 

Kirk: Exactly. And yeah. And Buds were winning awards in the nineties etc...

Ted Smith: B.C. Bud was famous across, you know. 

Kirk: Sowhy. I've asked this question of other people. Is it the government not having the foresight or is it the people within the government that are still buying it? Why have commercial when I can just buy from my guy down the street I'm always bought from is that what is that what happened here? Like what happened in British Columbia. Nobody was ready for the retail store when there were so many stores already. 

Ted Smith: It's hard to get my head around how the B.C. government just completely failed to put the resources into developing this. 

Kirk: They could have...

Ted Smith: Because like everybody's been delayed and that's just because there's just not enough staff. Yeah, right. So, you put the staff into it and this is like an economic generator.

Kirk: you would think

Ted Smith: They put this portfolio under the Solicitor General's Office and Mike Farnworth, the police. This is the number one economic generator already in the province and it's under the police. It's completely the wrong bureaucracy, running it completely the wrong mentality. 

Kirk: You guys have been operating aboveboard for a long time, right? Like you pay I understand you pay taxes for the building. You pay your rent. You're incorporated as is in a corporate license. 

Ted Smith: Ya, since 2012. Actually, Revenue Canada came after us in 2012 after the first Owen Smith decision at the lower court. And So, at that point the CRA told me the police sent them down here because they weren't going to bother me anymore, So, they may as well come get their taxes. And at that point it was when we turned it into a nonprofit and started paying our employee deductions and all this. And it's a substantial amount each year. But yeah, we're pretty prepared for things like, you know, even the society, aside from going after the individual board members like we can't get a bank account. So, it's not like they can come seize our assets that they could come in here and seize our computers and stuff like that. But really, it's not. 

Kirk: You can't get a bank account your society cannot get a bank account 

Ted Smith: Well, cannabis buyers club? 

Kirk: So, we're down to the banking. You want to ask some questions about banking? 

Trevor: Yeah. And before we get to banking, I just want to highlight something. One of the things that Ted said is The B.C. Cannabis Secretariat. 

Kirk: Oh, yes. 

Trevor: And the and maybe we're reading too much into this, but you know, conspiracy theorists will love the fact that the head of it, the person named Jamie, who they can't find any record of, no Facebook, no anything. And I like what Ted said is, you know, this is the Cannabis Secretariat in B.C. This person should be the most popular person in B.C.. Should be ribbon cutting for every new cannabis store open. But doesn't seem to, you know, they're having trouble finding this person even existing. And they're sort of leading the charge against the Victoria Canada's Buyers Club. 

Kirk: It's interesting. Ted, Ted Smith: has been doing this humanitarian work and teaching people and advocating for the use of cannabis since 1997 is when he sort-of-popped up on the radar. And in those in those 25 years, he's become familiar with a lot of people. And he does speak to this that he he's quite a he's quite amazed and humbled by the respect that he gets from people. And So, he knows people. He's connected. He's well connected in Victoria, but they can't figure out the sex of this person, this Jamie person. They don't know the sex of them. So, Jamie signs the letter that has the charges. But they but they have no sex. They have no name like who this person is. But it seems ridiculous, didn't it? 

Trevor: It did, but I distracted you from banking. So, Kirk what do you think about the like we knew from your previous trip to Colorado that, you know, down there nationally, banking and cannabis don't go together because nationally in the U.S. cannabis isn't legal. So, you know, they literally have big safes full of money. But I didn't realize it stretched into Canada. 

Kirk: I didn't either. And, and he doesn't go much into that. We're sitting in The Box, which is, which was, their cannabis consumption lounge, which is now closed and it is his office. Now, I don't know if you can pick it up in early in the conversation can almost hear wood snapping. 

Trevor: Yeah, it sounds like you're sitting by a crackling fire. It sounded very nice. 

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah, well, that's. Well, that was his screensaver in the computer, so. 

Trevor: Well, that's the magic of podcasting. I can picture you guys sitting by a roaring fire. 

Kirk: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah, I found it distracting, but, we're in The Box and he starts talking a little bit about, you know, they've been broken into a couple of times. Money issue. And I was well in Canada cannabis is legal. So, you should be able to do some banking. Well, of course they're not a legal dispensary. 

Trevor: Yeah, I guess that's right. 

Kirk: They are outside the law and also, I guess there is maybe we have to interview a banking person on this, but I guess because some of our bigger banks do business in the States, they have to be careful with how they are seen with cannabis money. So, I think primarily I mean, I'm not an accountant. I don't understand the nuances. And I really, really wasn't I wasn't there to probe. But I think a lot of it probably has to do with that they're kind of in the gray area of the law.  Actually, they're outside the law, hence why they're being fined. But it is kind of interesting to think that an organization can move that much money. And actually, in the strategic plan, they do have the amount of money that they make and what their visions are and their budget. I mean, it's not a small it's a pretty big organization. $1,291,000 profit in June 2017-18 year. So, then it they're moving product. But what's cool about this... A little rant about medical cannabis right now is that, you know, recreational cannabis is getting all the attention. I've written about this in our blog. I plan to write some more about it. I hope to do some presentations on it. But the medical cannabis industry of Canada is being ignored by the health care system, in my opinion. Right? Very few, very few acute care centers have policies on cannabis as medicine. And here we've got an agency that is that you can actually go get your medical cannabis from people that understand medical cannabis, who give advice for medical cannabis, give you give you baked goods that went through the Supreme Court. Right. This club took edibles to the Supreme Court. This is why we have edibles in Canada is because of Ted Smith: and Owen Smith and they're offering compassion to people with chronic and deadly diseases and they're being fined for being illegal. It's a fascinating story. 

Trevor: It is. It is. And So, what do you think? Should we wrap up our little banking seqway and get back to Ted? 

Kirk: Yeah, let's let Ted talk a little bit about the banking. And he goes deeper into a little bit more about friendships and stuff in the cannabis industry. 

Kirk: The growers. So, the people that give you cannabis are they ACMR growers or they just like. How do you I guess it really doesn't matter how you get your cannabis. 

Ted Smith: I think now they all are.  In the past I actually discourage people from getting MMAR and stuff for a few reasons, partly because they were going to be breaking the laws anyways. So, the rules were So, restrictive that, you know, people were going to be forced to break them anyway. And as they once tried, I always thought that they would try and shut everybody down as they did try to do, and then if they had their way, they would have gone and sent the police in everywhere to make sure that everybody was shut down. And So, and, you know, like the quality doesn't necessarily at all be attached to the license. And I found a lot of people would get licenses to grow that didn't know how to grow. Now and I prefer to stick with old school professional growers that weren't protected by some license that were really into it for the medicine. And we have done our best to provide protection to any of them in case of trouble. But for the most part, I want to avoid that. Partly it is like the biggest risk is dealing with people. All right. So, it's like almost all of our growers for years, most of the medicine, we get is like exclusively from these ma and pa growers and we're the only ones they deal with. So, it's like they keep it down in their neighborhood and they don't have anybody ratted about or pissed off because they did a bad deal or one and more that they didn't get or something because that's how people get busted, you know? And they have business dealings that go bad. Uh huh. So, yeah, we've been fortunate on that end and we've got some really long-term relationships. Our longest one started growing for us in 1998. We've got four other growers that have been since 2003. A few more recently than that. But like a good core, certainly over half the medicine that we get is from growers that have been with us for almost 20 years. 

Kirk: And all the cannabis analyzed then. Like if you analyze for Turps and. 

Ted Smith: We don't do lab inspections too much, it's kind of a headache and expensive. 

Kirk: It is expensive. 

Ted Smith: You know. It's like that. Yeah. And it doesn't always dictate the quality. So, we do our own quality testing. Sure. 

Kirk: What is that? human tests? 

Ted Smith: Just the staff. Most of them are patients themselves, So, that really helps them get to know how good it is. But we do a rigorous visual testing for mold. 

Kirk: Okay. 

Ted Smith: I'm pretty skeptical of both how Health Canada deals with it, but just testing for mold in general, because you can send in a beautiful sample and of course, it doesn't have mold, but that doesn't mean that none of the crop does, right? The one of the bags didn't go bad, but that can happen pretty damn quick too. So, we go through every single half pound bag that we get and do a good inspection. Not every bud. But we make sure because the last thing in the world we want is for one of our patients to get sick. And go to the Fucking health region. Excuse my French, but be like, Yeah, I bought this from the club and it's full of mold. 

Kirk: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Ted Smith: I mean, we're shut down in half an hour, but. 

Kirk: But I trust also that your cannabis is also probably not traveling the miles that that recreational cannabis. 

Ted Smith: Well it's not. And we don't have to test for pesticides and stuff because it's grown for us. People know who it's for. They know that if we got one bad reaction and tested and found it and they're just fucking screwed. 

Kirk: They're gone. 

Ted Smith: excuse my French. 

Kirk: Yeah, that's all right. Yeah. 

Ted Smith: And now it's to the point where most of our growers realize they've got such a cozy relationship with us. We typically pay above market, but the market right now sucks. And pretty much every one of our growers, if they stop supplying us, is just going to like shut it down because it's not worth going back to that scene that I mentioned where it's just completely full of risk. 

Kirk: Yeah. 

Ted Smith: It really is a day to day kind of operation. Yeah. Whereas now it's like we've provided security to people for years. Like I've known children to be born and grow up, go to school and leave home since they've started to grow for us. That's pretty fascinating. 

Kirk: That is fascinating. You say 27 years. It's a generation, right? 

Ted Smith: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I've even got staff here that are younger than the club. 

Kirk: So, you've got a whole lot of strains up there; cultivars up there. Yeah, they are. They are they. You can identify them as Sativa and Indica. You're sure of the land race? You're sure of all the races and all that and. Or is it just the grower comes in and says X? 

Ted Smith: There is a little bit of uncertainty in that. But typically speaking, the growers and people are right into their genetics these days. And um, you know, I haven't questioned whether the genetics, we're told are the right ones. It is quite different than the, you know, 20 years ago and half, three quarters of what came in and people didn't even know the strain or anything.  The real issue is Indica or sativa, again, you know, wonderful to have stuff that use it as medicine that can pretty quickly determine that.  I'm not So, great at it myself, but I have more sensitive staff than myself that can, you know, if we put something up as an Indica and they're like, wait a minute, this is not an Indica because like, okay, well, okay, we can adjust it somewhat. So, that doesn't happen very often. Usually it's pretty accurate and we use Seed Finder to tell us, um, okay. And that seems to be a pretty accurate website to determine sativa Indica ratio. And we do, we don't get into the strains So, much as just general Indica sativa. 

Kirk: Okay. 

Ted Smith: Although sometimes, you know, our staff do know certain strains are really good for certain conditions, but typically speaking it's more this is like, you know, they're relaxing, help you with your muscle pain and different things and this is, you know, more of a anti-inflammatory and pain nerve kind of medicine. But we also do have edibles that are Indica sativa we have a range of capsules that are made with Bud and Hash. And soon we're going to have Indica rosin caps and sativa rosin caps as well. And were you going to do the same with our suppositories? So, we're going to have Indica sativa suppositories here pretty soon. And So, but uh, yeah, it's, it's something where, you know, there's So, many potential products that we could have on, on that end of things. It's, it's kind of fascinating. 

Kirk: So, you have, you have an advantage over the recreational dispensaries in that that bud tenders are not allowed to give advice right, by legislation, since you are not a recreational dispensary do your staff, they're able to give advice or they do give advice. 

Ted Smith: And that's one of our biggest criticisms of the system and how inaccessible it is for patients. 

Kirk: Yes. 

Ted Smith: Because, you know, a cancer patient can't walk into a store, a rec-legal one and talk about drug interactions. Right. Or, you know, what will help with, you know, nausea or, you know, any of those questions. The staff legally cannot answer. And often they refer people here because, you know, we can. And that that's what we specialize. 

Kirk: You know, you can also refer to our website because we did a whole episode on drug interactions. So, but yeah, no, that's the thing that I find interesting because what, what I like to do is I like to go into dispensaries and introduce the podcast and remind them that you're not allowed to give advice, I can. As a registered nurse, my partner Trevor: is a pharmacist. We can give advice. And I'm in a situation with the Manitoba Nursing College where I'm becoming cannabis nurse. So, I can give advice. Which leads me to my next question. Do you have any medical staff on medical staff on staff? 

Ted Smith: We don't actually have any trained medical staff, no. Okay. Um, that would be a dream come true. I've known of other compassion clubs to do that and really, it would probably be a very practical thing to do, but we haven't gone that route yet. 

Kirk: Is that because you haven't reached out? Because your medical, there are medical doctors prescribing cannabis. I don't know about BC, do you have nurse practitioners, independent practitioners here. 

Ted Smith: Yeah.

Kirk: Okay. They can prescribe cannabis. I'm surprised that you haven't reached out or found or they haven't reached out and come to you and offer their assistance. 

Ted Smith: Well, I think doctors are typically pretty wary of the College. The College of Physicians and Surgeons has not been nice to too many doctors and stuck their neck out on this issue. 

Kirk: In B.C.

Ted Smith: Across Canada. 

Kirk: Because there are docs to do it. 

Ted Smith: I know. And So, it's out there, I guess, that's the route that we want to go. We want to have a legal store for patients where we can have, you know, pharmacists and nurse practitioners and stuff on site. I guess, you know, part of it for me is just trying to keep the costs as low as possible. And, you know, we rely on medical professionals to diagnose people. And so, you know, would you know. But, um. Yeah, it just. That's a good question. 

Kirk: It's a conundrum, isn't it? I mean, as a nurse, I've been nursing now for 40 years, which blows my mind. But for 40 years, I've been a proponent of cannabis. I've got myself in trouble over it in some situations. But, you know, 2001, it became medicinal, it became a medicine, according to the courts, told us it was medicine. The health care system ignored it. And then we got legal recreational cannabis. So, my issue that I'm having as a nurse is the health system has forgotten about the medical people. What's happening in the health system right now is that for what, 17 years we had legal medical cannabis, but no health region had any policies on people using cannabis as medicine in their facilities. Now we have recreational cannabis where all the health authorities have policies on their staff's use of cannabis, but they still don't have medicinal cannabis policies. 

Ted Smith: Right.

Kirk: So, with your experience, how do we push the health care system to recognize cannabis as medicine? 

Ted Smith: Well. That is a very difficult one. But we're actually now we just wrapped up the research on the smoking lounge here. 

Kirk: The box ya. 

Ted Smith: The Box. We've connected with Professor Marilou Gagnon, up at UVIC who's also with the with Canadian Institute of Health Research. 

Kirk: I was reading on this, Yes. 

Ted Smith: Yeah. She's also with Canadian Center for Substance Use. And so, yeah, this study here, it has a few purposes. Certainly, we want to document the medical, economic and social benefits that our patients get from having free access to a cannabis lounge. You know, it's something I've seen, you know, certainly for years how patients benefit from having this space. But it also will be very useful in pushing for health care facilities to have free spaces for consumption in old age homes and long-term care facilities and the hospitals. Because the push will initially and B.C. is just getting ready to do consulting on recreational consumption lounges, but they'll be for profit. 

Kirk: you will have to pay to go in. 

Ted Smith: Pay to go in and the focus will be on, you know, selling. 

Kirk: They will sell their own bud.  

Ted Smith: Sell products possibly have bud on site. But certainly, you know, all the other food and drinks and things like that is going to be part of the experience. Whereas patients that are in chronic pain that use this several times throughout the day, that have mobility issues, they can't just go downtown to the lounge to use their medicine. They need something that's close to their beds. So, we actually work pretty closely with one in town that we're hoping we can convince to create a pilot project. Once this is peer reviewed and published and everything. And there's real good documentation. Yeah, we have many patients that use Nigel House, I don’t know if you're familiar with the facility, it's a long-term care facility. So, you know, patients need a lot of help with. 

Kirk: Even apartment dwellers. I mean, we don't we had a short story and a guy in Vancouver lives in an apartment, medical cannabis user two years, couldn't legally consume cannabis anywhere. 

Ted Smith: Well and that's what this study is about because it's it is actually kind of neat how we could document, you know, what it's been like without The Box as opposed to what it was like with. Because before people couldn't even compare. But yeah, you know our members have suffering tremendously by not having the space in the last couple of years. 

Trevor: So, Kirk, So, this is, as we've said several times before, Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is an illegal operation. So, you know, probably not everybody wants to be a grower for them. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe lots of people do. But I'm assuming we, they have a special relationship with, with their growers. 

Kirk: Yeah. Well, as he says, he talks about the growers, he's been with them for over 20 years, some of the growers. And basically, these are people that grow specifically for the Cannabis Club. And he obviously keeps them very secret. There's an economy of scale happening here, but it's been happening So, long that he's seen a generation of kids grow up and. I found it interesting, you know, one of the questions I asked him was about analyzing their pot and their weed, what they have and what they're given. And I guess part of me and I guess as a pharmacist, this must be something that you're probably a little skeptical about, is that they're trusting they're trusting their bud tenders, the people that are there for advice to understand the cannabis So, they don't do any chemistry or any analysis of their cannabis. They're going purely by what the growers are growing and how the cannabis makes the patient feel. What do you think about that as a pharmacist? 

Trevor: Purely as a pharmacist, that's kind of the antithesis to everything I do. You know, we're all about knowing exactly what's in every dose and exactly how much you're taking and for how long. And, you know, the exact composition of every tablet, capsule is really important for everything from, you know, allergies to, you know, if someone comes back and had a bad reaction to X, what was that they had a bad reaction to? You know, because we if they still have high blood pressure and we have to keep treating their high blood pressure, we don't want to give them X again. So, that's kind of the antithesis to what I do now, taking off the pharmacist hat and or maybe just putting out the harm reduction hat. Maybe. I guess the argument I'm not saying I'm fully behind it, but, you know, devil's advocate would be, most cannabis for most people is So, safe that. Does it maybe really matter if we know exactly what's in there? That's that hurts me a little bit to even say that. But I guess that's kind of the harm reductionist in me is, you know, maybe it's not the worst thing in the world for us to not know. But again, my, pharmacist brain hurt hurts a little to say that. 

Kirk: Well, this is where I come into play. It's where I wrestle with cannabis as medicine is my theory is that the health care system just is not used to the patient being in charge. We're not used to the patient knowing more about the medication they're taking than the pharmacist or the doctor. So, this is all part of the conundrum that we have in the health care system with cannabis is that we've got a bunch of stoners out there self-medicating with stuff that Canada doesn't even consider a medication. 20 years cannabis has been legal. Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada and it still does not have a drug identification number. That just tells me that we're ignoring it. Now, I understand that the flower would be very difficult, but you can extract you can extract the cannabinoids from the plant and give a DIN to the individual cannabinoids. I think they're doing it with synthetic, right? Yeah. Name some synthetics. So, they're doing it. 

Trevor: Nabilone, etc.? 

Kirk: But why can't they do it with the extracts of a live plant? 

Trevor: And I'm not an expert on this part but I will try. DIN, drug identification numbers are not necessarily the end all be all. Well, they kind of are for the prescription end of stuff. But there's also things called NPN's natural product numbers, which, you know, even the cannabis flower could get. But you're right, it would. I'm sure some smart person could figure out how, but especially when you don't know exactly what's, not only from, you know, Trevor's brand, too Kirk: brand. You don't know from Trevor's crop one to Trevor: crop two exactly what's in it. Exactly how you would control that would be... Our system is not really set up for that particularly well but it's not say that couldn't be done. 

Kirk: What is Vitamin D. what number does it have. 

Trevor: I am not in the pharmacy? But my guess it would be an NPN, well, it depends. It depends. There's over-the-counter stuff that I'm sure has an NPN a natural product number, but there's also some vitamin that I'm sure as a DIN number. And then there's definitely prescription strength, Vitamin D that definitely has a DIN and So, Vitamin D would be a little all over the place. But again, I'm not I'm for those of you yelling at the podcast right now, I am not a how you regulate products expert. This is just sort of what I've seen in the pharmacy. 

Kirk: Sure, and I get that. But it's I find again, I find it all very interesting. You know, we've got doctors that are quite prepared to prescribe drugs off label, which essentially means that they're prescribing a drug that has no research at all. But yet we sit here with medical cannabis that does have research, and we're learning it through this system, this Reefer Medness The Podcast. We're learning that research is being done and we're still ignoring it. I'll get off that pedestal. The other thing I wanted to know about the last comment Ted made was The Box that they have and that the University of Victoria, Dr. Marylou Gagnon is actually doing a study and I googled this study and this is has to do with cannabis lounges. 

Trevor: Yeah, it's going to say just So, just to jump in for those of you don't know what The Box is, Kirk, what's a cannabis lounge and what was The Box. 

Kirk: Yeah, The Box, in the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, Johnson Street location it's basically a cement room that looks like a dispensary, but without all the bells and whistles of an Apple Store paraphernalia and in the box of the Box, there is another box, a cement box with a sliding door, like a patio door that used to be the cannabis lounge where the patients would go in, consume the cannabis, get some, get some counseling from some of the people.  Well that was shut down, I believe, during the raid. I'm not specifically sure why it was shut down, but I think it's part of the raid issue. Their web page was taken down also. So, their clients can't even get weed online anymore. But now what's happening is that the University of Victoria is actually doing some research on cannabis lounges because remember, this is another rant that I've had is that people cannot consume cannabis anywhere, right. In one of my blogs, you really have to understand where you're at. Vancouver International Airport they have signs where you can actually go outside and smoke cannabis or your cigarette tobacco, tobacco while waiting for a flight. And then they have these amnesty boxes where you can throw your weed in before you get on to your flight if you're going internationally. But in a national park and in a provincial park. Because I think you asked me this question last time we did this. 

Trevor: A while ago Yeah. 

Kirk: Yeah. You cannot consume cannabis in a national park or a B.C. provincial park because I just spent a lot of time out there. Unless you're in your campsite. Now, if you're in your campsite, a paid campsite is considered your domicile. So, what happens in the campsite is fine, but you can't walk a trail, you know? So. And you can't stand downtown Vancouver, though everyone's doing it. Or Winnipeg. Or even Dauphin, for that matter. And consume your weed. So, there is nowhere for people to consume medical weed, especially if you live in a condo or an apartment. So, they're doing some research on that and Ted's group is involved with that. So, I think we should circle around. What happened is that we're talking and I know the editing is going to drive Rene nuts because Ted and I just sat and talked. We just talked and about a bunch of stuff. And So, what I've done is I've pulled stuff out after we stopped talking and turned off a tape recorder. We sat down and just chatted some more and just got friendly, very nice man. And we circled back Trevor on the legal battles because the whole thing started with the legal battle and I asked them, What do you think the B.C. government is doing here? Because essentially, if you think about the logic, the only way we create change in Canada on cannabis is this gone to the court system, right? The Supreme Court told the medical system, well told the government back in 2001 that cannabis was helping people. So, you can have a prescription, quote unquote, though it's not even what's it called. It's not a prescription for cannabis. It's called. 

Trevor: It's a medical document. 

Kirk: A medical document. So, they force doctors and nurse practitioners, prescribers to prescribe this stuff. So, what happened is that a small group of cannabis users started educating a smaller group of doctors in how cannabis helped. And again, we just ignored it. So, the question I have is that the B.C. government has known about Ted Smith forever. So, they slapped this $6 million fine on him. To what? To what? What's the end goal? Right. So, Ted gets on to that, too, and discusses it. And I find it fascinating. Well, we'll leave the last word for Ted here. But I think what's happening is maybe I'd like to think, the government is doing this extravagant fine So, that it goes to the court and we can finally, finally create some changes for medical cannabis consumers. And that would be illustrated in the strategic plan in regards to what these guys want. And So, let's give Ted his last word here before we go on to the next stage of this podcast. 

Trevor: All right. 

Ted Smith: Well, there's really two main points that I think are both constitutional arguments and practical arguments. And they both follow up on the Smith decision of 2015. Immediately, Health Canada allowed edible and concentrates with a ten milligram THC limit, which is the bare minimum for an effect, but for most patients is just completely not enough. We have patients that need up to a thousand milligrams a day if they're using the sort of what's called the Rick Simpson protocol for fighting cancer. And So, we have suppositories with 250 milligrams of THC in them.  A government one has ten. So, they have to do 25 suppositories with the strength of one, three or four times a day, which really is impractical, is actually a term anal leakage for trying to do stuff like that. It just does not work. And So, the low dosage, we believe, is a strong argument that the law is just arbitrary because they really don't have a good reason for being So, low for four patients in particular. The other argument is access. Health Canada's medical marijuana programs have been very difficult to get into. It's a mail order program. There's no, as we are saying, way for patients to walk into a store or get medical advice. You know, a range of products that are designed for patients specifically. And that's what we want. We want to be able to specialize in those types of products, have those kinds of conversations, hire professionals that wouldn't be risking their career to work with us. And, you know, I know Shoppers Drug Mart wants it too. Like we're literally fighting for Shoppers Drug Mart to have their little Cannabis store. 

Kirk: Isn't that astounding?

Ted Smith: Right? So, it's like, you know, we want something that works for patients across Canada, not just here for us in Victoria. And, you know, part of that and one of the reasons we've got our heels in the ground here is because we also have a cannabis bakery that makes capsules and suppositories and, you know, edibles and stuff. And the current rules wouldn't allow us to own both facilities. And So, that's unacceptable. We would have to choose between having a store with a lounge for patients to use, like, really like what should be the model in this industry, you know, a one stop shopping center for patients where they go and they want to completely dismantle that. And we would have to choose between continuing to make our products and having a retail storefront. And So, we need to have both facilities and have them connected So, that, you know, as we discuss things with our patients and talk about what they're using and what they might want to try and experiment with, then we could develop new products or a kitchen and sell them at a lowest cost possible, with not a lot of middlemen in between which, you know, would again benefit patients, which to us is the only thing that matters. 

Kirk: So, so that could actually be one of the ramifications of this lawsuit in the sense that when you win the lawsuit, it may actually parachute you and give you the leverage to say, you know what, this is what we need. So, this actually might be a good thing. 

Ted Smith: And we've been saying this, that this gives us the opportunity to argue in court and in public as to why the medical marijuana programs are So, dysfunctional and unacceptable. Yeah, because the recreational system is struggling along and sure, the industry's got it struggles. But you know, patients are the only reason it's there in the first place and they should be, you know, the top priority through this, you know, and so, you know, it's something like, you know, we're not going to to just quit or compromise. And what we've been able to do for patients for So, long, given that we've been one of the main instruments, both legally and on the street, to make this happen in the first place. We've set precedent after precedent for decades with the work we've done, and we're about to do that again. 

Kirk: So, here we are, medical compassion club. And wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if you could walk into a recreational type store that would have nurses and doctors and people there that understand and you can go in there, buy your medical cannabis, get some advice from medical practitioners. I asked Ted if he had a doctor or nurse on staff. He didn't. And when I explained to him what we're trying to do or what I'm trying to do with nursing, become a cannabis nurse, he found that fascinating. So, wouldn't it be wonderful if we were at able to have a medical cannabis storefront where experts were there to help people? And I think I'd like to think that the result of this lawsuit is just that. 

Ted Smith: Yeah, no, that would be fantastic. And as a much smaller but just interesting sidebar, I think we for future episodes have to track down just smoking lounges. They seem to be they seem to be another sort of legal limbo thing that they I've heard, I don't know anything. That's why I think we should interview someone. I hear there are starting some places in Canada, not in others. Some places you'll have to pay a cover charge to go in. Or maybe you have to buy it. It's just the whole. Yeah, it's like you said, a big issue we keep running into as well. Where can I smoke my weed? Smoking lounges don't sound like a bad idea, but it'd be interesting to talk to one or two people who have opened one and see what's involved. 

Kirk: Well, once again, I think the federal law, the federal legislation allows for and again, it's the provinces that are screwing it up. Speaking of the provinces, I'm wearing TobaGrown. And yeah, I understand that TobaGrown, Jesse has taken it finally got his opportunity to present in court. So, they've thrown their arguments down and they're now what months you have to wait for the judgment. 

Trevor: Yeah. No, we're looking forward to hopefully a positive result for Jesse and TobaGrown and Kirk. My worst segue ever. But you also talk to somebody else and B.C. she because it's going to be important for the story. She was sort of involved with Ted and his operation, but also had her own story that had something to do with cannabis and women's studies and undergrad. Why don't you tell us a little bit about her. 

Kirk: What happened is that as Ted and I sort of stopped talking and, you know, moving on to other things, and this young woman walked in and full of energy, piss and vinegar, as they say. And she started talking to me about her world. And I said, Well, stop, stop. Can I record this? Can I can I can I make this a cannabis story? She said, Sure. So, let's jump in just the way she did. I mean, because really, quite frankly, she just bam. 

Jacqueline Kittel: I started as a recreational user, as a teenager, and it started with like buying $5 half grams with like quarters and nickels that we could count, and then using earrings to pierce holes in pop cans and smoking in fields behind schools and getting in trouble with my parents and having World War Three with my parents. I got kicked out a lot, but in spite of my mom, I achieved honor roll every year of high school and I was the yearbook final editor two years in a row. And So, my chronic cannabis consumption had no effect on my ability to succeed in school. And I received an entrance scholarship to the University of Victoria. And So, I left the mainland and came to the island. From there I kept smoking weed recreationally. I worked at a couple dispensaries that were in 2017-18, like just before legalization, when they were just like a bunch of young dudes doing for profit selling the illegal weed. At that time, Ted was hosting Hematology at UVIC in its final years, and So, that's on Wednesdays at 4:20 in the middle of the quad. And So, I was in my first year of university and it was the mandatory English class every university student has to take. And I was in the class and talking to like my peers who were all new and young, and I'm like, you guys, there's like a 420. Does anyone want to go to 420 420. And then what turned into my best friend was this girl named Rachel, and her ears perked up and she's like, 420, What? So, her and I went together and then bonded after that forever. And we joined us a sorority and did the whole university experience. And then I kept going to 420 weekly and Ted was like a feature until he retired from cannabis activism in a big way. And in that time, I came into my final year of my gender studies degree, which is like a far out there, like humanities social sciences degree. And because it's So, small of a program like the seniors usually are like 30 students, right? It's really little. So, the Gender Studies Department has the ability, the desire for their undergraduates to leave their degree with the thing. So, they have the option of doing like theater or you'll do a blanket that tells a story or whatever. But I did a dissertation and So, I had the opportunity to do like fully ethics approved, full scale original research. 

Kirk: And So, in the undergrad. Yeah. Okay. 

Jacqueline Kittel: And then Ted at this point is like stepping away from the club in activism or whatever. And then I show up like super eager and young. Ted I am doing this work do you want to help. And he helped me. He was stepping away from all this other stuff, but helped me and what it was just like deciding who to contact. And then Ted functioned as my connection to industry leaders. So, that way it wasn't like cold calling people. And then he did the soft introduction. And So, we did like the manager at the Compassion Club, like one at the Green Ceiling, you know, five different. 

Kirk: What was the question you're asking for the research. 

Jacqueline Kittel: It started well because like I came from this gender studies perspective, which is this feminist lens that says there's gender differentiation and that women move through the world and face obstacles through employment and leadership. And So, I was starting with this presumption of like, what are the barriers to leadership for women in cannabis? Then I did a lot of interviews with these different women, and then a lot of them had different things to say about gender. Some people thought it mattered a lot. Another participant It didn't matter at all. So, then the findings shifted. And when I did the analysis, I found patterns and I argued that cannabis, though it is a new industry, is not outside of historical social context. And there is issues of like racism, sexism and classism moving into the legal industry. And then I looked at the ways in which some of my participants were leveraging their privileged identities to move cannabis into the normal legal sector. 

Kirk: This is the research you did as an undergrad student. You wasted it? How are you doing your master's? What's your Master's question.

Jacqueline Kittel: Well, I won a national essay writing competition, and they flew me to Regina to speak on the topic. And then I submitted for publication. And I'm a peer reviewed, published author. 

Kirk: Cool. And what's the name of the book? 

Jacqueline Kittel: Women in Weed: Gender, Race and Class. 

Kirk: Cool, cool. 

Jacqueline Kittel: My full name is Jacqueline Kittel, K I T T E L . Oh. 

Kirk: Thank you. I was going to ask you to introduce yourself. Jacqueline Kittel. And you are now the manager of the Vancouver Island (error: Victoria) Cannabis Buyers Club. Cool, cool, man. Thank you for that story. 

Kirk: And what I found fascinating is that, you know, I like academia a little bit and I found it fascinating. And she had the opportunity to do a complete study in an undergrad course that that that was fascinating. 

Trevor: I like that she had a good title because if you ever read papers, their titles are descriptive but boring. We have yeah, women and weed, gender, race and class. You know what? I'd read that. 

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well, I'm Kirk: Nyquist I'm a registered nurse. 

Trevor: I'm Travis Shewfelt and. I'm the pharmacist. 

Kirk: And this is Reefer Medness - The Podcast. And Ted did have a song, man, when I asked him, Yeah, guess what it was. 

Trevor: I'm going to go with Bob Marley. 

Kirk: He said, Bob Marley and So, he let me let me choose the song. And I was thinking, you got to have Kaya Now, but I went with Satisfy My Soul because I think right now the biggest thing that that that Ted wants is that I just don't want my boat rocked, man. So, we're going to Satisfy my Soul.  

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