Category Archives: Press Release

Supreme Court Validates Compassion Club Practices

The British Columbia Compassion Club (BCCCS) today announced their support of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the R v Smith case concerning edible cannabis medicine.

“This is yet one more case that shows why Compassion Clubs exist,” said Jamie Shaw, a spokesperson with the group. “Dispensaries have consistently had charges against them dropped; growers have consistently been granted discharges; and our reasons for civil disobedience have been constantly validated by the courts,” she said.

In the case of R v Smith the Supreme Court found that the ‘effects of prohibition contradict the objective of public health and safety’, and that ‘by forcing a person to choose between a legal but inadequate treatment and an illegal but more effective one, the law also infringes security of the person.

The ruling also states that liberty is limited ‘by foreclosing reasonable medical choices through the threat of criminal prosecution‘. Shaw believes that the same holds true for patients who are forced to choose between the legal, but inadequate Health Canada program, and the illegal effective dispensaries.

“These three findings perfectly encapsulate why we exist, an,” Shaw said, adding “We sincerely hope that these findings are applied to the issue of access as well, so that, patients are no longer forced to choose between the inadequate but legal Health Canada program or illegal dispensaries that provide education, support and other services.

“We’ve been doing this a long time, and we’ve been doing it with both patients and public safety in mind. The courts recognized that back in 2001, and we’ve only gotten better at it since then,” Shaw said.

She expressed disappointment that the court didn’t accept Mr. Tousaw’s suggestion to simply remove cannabis from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

“It means we won’t be seeing any clarity any time soon.” Shaw said, “It may be some time before workable, constitutional regulations are developed by Health Canada.”

Shaw also points out that the ruling refers to patients with ‘medical authorization’ and that this isn’t the same language as the ‘medical document’ referred to in the MMPR, adding she would like to see some further clarity about what is considered ‘medical authorization’ in the eyes of the courts.

The BC Compassion Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1997. It is the longest-running dispensary in North America.

Media contact: Jamie Shaw jamie[at]thecompassionclub.org

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Press Release

BCCCS Congratulates John Conroy and the Coalition Against Repeal

Archived from 21 March, 2014

The BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS) was pleased to hear of the Federal Court decision today that protects the rights of those with personal licenses to continue growing medical cannabis.

We do hope that future decisions will allow all patients to grow their own medicine, and that the findings of unconstitutionality on restrictions to dried cannabis only will be upheld.

View the decision here.

Press Release

BCCCS Member Wins Medical Marijuana Reimbursement From Workers Comp in Ontario

Archived from 4 May, 2011

The BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS) is celebrating a ruling for one of its members, Gary William Simpson, now living in Ontario, in a victory for the rights of medical cannabis patients. After a five-year journey of appeals, Mr. Simpson has been awarded reimbursement for the cost of his medical marijuana from the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB), the Workers Compensation body of Ontario.

Simpson sustained an acute back injury while working as a heavy equipment mechanic, leaving him disabled in February 2000. While WSIB covered his prescription pain medications, these proved to have unwanted side effects and addictive qualities. Told by his doctor that his “liver and kidney wouldn’t last more than 5 years” using these prescription medications, Simpson gained approval for his medical marijuana license from Health Canada (MMAR) in 2003 with his physician’s support.

Using medical cannabis, Mr. Simpson noted a reduced need for pain medication, elimination of ulcer problems, improved sleep, better control of his diabetes, and a renewed ability to walk and do work around the house for up to a half-hour at a time.

WSIB, however, refused to cover Simpson’s medical marijuana costs, claiming it did “not recognize this form of medicine.”

Upon going to appeal, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) concluded that Simpson’s “use of marijuana is recognized as an appropriate health care measure” and that “the most practical and reasonable approach would be to reimburse the worker for the costs which he must pay each month to Health Canada,” which were estimated at $805 a month.

Just 4 months after receiving his license, however, Simpson was cut off from Health Canada’s cannabis and, instead, given a packet of seeds and told to grow his own supply, which proved unsuccessful and untenable due to his health.

WSIB refused to recognize Simpson’s letter of receipt from local dispensary, the Toronto Compassion Centre, detailing his purchases of medical marijuana from 2000-2007. Instead, they informed Simpson that he would be reimbursed only for the cost of a packet of seeds from Health Canada, approximately $20 per year.

Finally, in 2010, the Tribunal affirmed its intent to cover Simpson’s medical marijuana regardless of Health Canada being the supplier. “The intention… was to provide the worker with reimbursement of some of the costs related to his use of medical marijuana… That intention can be maintained if the worker is reimbursed an amount equal to what he would have had to pay had he still been receiving his marijuana from Health Canada.”

Mr. Simpson’s case highlights Health Canada’s continued failure to provide an adequate program to serve patients using medical marijuana and the continuing education required for bodies like the WSIB. While the case is in Ontario, the BCCCS is pleased for Mr. Simpson’s hard-won victory, which should give heart to patients across the nation who benefit from medical cannabis.

Press Release

BCCCS Working to Further Legitimize Medical Cannabis Cultivation

Archived from 13 January, 2011

You may have seen media recently talking about a supposed confrontation between BCCCS and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

In November the CRA served the BCCCS with a “requisition” to provide all financial and contact information about our cultivators for the years 2007-2009 so that they could assess them for undeclared income. The CRA is not targeting the Club itself, but would like our cultivators to pay income tax if they haven’t been.

We have actually been working with the CRA to bring our cultivators into the tax system voluntarily with much lesser consequences, while simultaneously avoiding a tax investigation or criminal prosecution.We are finding our way through this situation with the help of the best legal team in Canada.

Previously, most of our cultivators believed either that they could not declare income from an “illegal” activity, or that declaring such income would lead them to being busted by the police. We are working with an accountant to help our cultivators file their back taxes, as well as to develop a template for claiming expenses which may potentially be used by all medical marijuana cultivators throughout Canada.

We believe we are creating progressive solutions that will help to advance the legitimization of medical cannabis in Canada. The BCCCS is committed to continue pioneering on behalf of all compassion clubs and dispensaries to transition the medical cannabis market to a safe, legal one.

Press Release

BC Compassion Club Opposes Bill S-10 for Proposing Mandatory Minimum Sentences Against Patients and Cultivators

Archived from 1 October, 2010

Members and supporters of the BC Compassion Club Society will be holding rallies in Vancouver on Saturday, October 2 at 12.30pm, as part of a nation-wide Day of Action against Bill S10.

“The Conservatives are trying to impose mandatory prison sentences against people caught growing as few as six marijuana plants,” said BCCCS Communications Coordinator Jeet-Kei Leung. “This will be devastating for the compassionate cultivators under contract to the BCCCS and for the overwhelming majority of medical marijuana patients that do not have the Canadian Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) card.”

BCCCS supporters and their allies will be rallying outside the offices of Liberal members of Parliament Dr. Hedy Fry and Ujjal Dosanjh in an effort to gather support against the bill. BCCCS is asking Liberals to oppose the controversial bill that would negatively impact the whole country.

The Conservative government is pushing Bill S-10 as a method by which to combat organized crime through mandatory minimum sentencing: a policy that even Conservative Senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, Pierre-Claude Nolin, questioned as being ineffective because big traffickers have already accepted the risks of being caught.

“Mandatory minimum sentencing will inadvertently increase profits for organized crime, because it’s the small-time ‘mom and pop’ operators who will be scared off by mandatory sentences,” said Leung. “And it’s exactly organized crime who will be in the best position to step in to fill the void left by the disappearance of the cottage industry that’s involved in marijuana cultivation.”

Leung added, “The policy will also cost taxpayers as much as $10 billion over the next five years while clogging the courts and overcrowding prisons with non-violent offenders. The policy has not worked in the U.S., and it won’t work here.”

The rallies are part of nation-wide protests opposing Bill S-10, taking place in cities from coast to coast.

Press Release

BC Compassion Club Society Unenthusiastic About New Medicinal Cannabis Regulations and Fuming About Health Canada’s Plan to Give Confiscated Seeds to Prairie Plant Systems

Archived from 5 June, 2001

The British Columbia Compassion Club Society (BCCCS), a non-profit organization that has been distributing medicinal cannabis for over four years, is pleased that Canada is taking steps to create legal access to cannabis for those in need. However, they feel that their 1,500 members as well as many other Canadians will be adversely affected by the creation of this costly and unnecessary bureaucratic process. “There will be many Canadians who have a legitimate use of cannabis but will unable to obtain an exemption,” commented BCCCS founder and spokesperson Hilary Black.

“We are disappointed that Health Canada is not presently prepared to sanction compassion clubs, ” stated Black. Health Canada states that it is not prepared at this time to consider licensing organizations or companies other than Prairie Plant Systems to produce and distribute marihuana. The BCCCS has been providing medical cannabis to people in need for over four years, including section 56 exemption holders and has provided much of their expertise to Health Canada upon request during this process. A BC Supreme Court judge concluded that the BCCCS is providing a vital community service.

In agreement with the Canadian Medical Association, the BCCCS considers marijuana to be a natural healthcare product that does not need to be controlled by doctors. Black explains that although they have been requiring doctor’s recommendation as a qualification for membership, it has been only in order to protect themselves legally. “The pretense of requiring a Doctor’s recommendation is based on stigma, control and fear rather than on any legitimate health concerns. Cannabis should be accessed in a similar manner as all other herbs. We need to be making health care decisions based on health concerns, not on legal catches. The BCCCS is not legally in a safe enough position to take that stand, but the government is.”

Black expressed outrage upon finding out that the government is providing Plant Prairie Systems with seeds confiscated by the police. “Police confiscate seeds to use them as evidence in court. The government has no right to then use them for other purposes. They are stealing the work of a persecuted community. They are trying to by-pass the seed companies and breeders without giving them the credit or recognition they deserve. Meanwhile, a government subsidized private corporation is positioned to monopolize the production of medicinal cannabis using the stolen seeds. We cannot support.”

The government has now licensed Plant Prairies Systems to produce medical cannabis and will be giving them the confiscated seeds to start their operations. According the Black, this presents a huge problem because the only legal supply to date of medical cannabis will be growing an unknown and inconsistent supply. “Growing plants without knowledge of their genetic make-up, quality or cannabinoids profile is like reaching into a medicine cabinet blindfolded. There are highly reputable Canadian seed companies, such as Legends Seeds, that could provide quality, stabilized seed strains that they have been producing legally in Switzerland. It would be a waste of resources to grow out unknown seeds. Why must the government distance itself from the cannabis community where all the knowledge already exists?”

According to Black, the exclusion of experienced growers who have criminal records for growing and the by-passing of seed companies is a missed opportunity to legitimize and protect the jobs of many Canadians. Likewise, access to the whole plant must protected in order to protect the already flourishing natural medicine industry that employs and serves hundred of thousands of Canadians. Health Canada’s report mentions pharmaceutical drugs as the ultimate goal of their research. “It’s essential that Canadians continue to have the choice to use cannabis in its natural form.”