The Week – January 20

One of the oldest cannabis clubs in the world is celebrating its 15th birthday this week, marking a milestone for medical marijuana users, and the popularity of B.C. bud.

Ted Smith in 2003

Ted Smith in 2003

Pot party

One of the oldest cannabis clubs in the world is celebrating its 15th birthday this week, marking a milestone for medical marijuana users, and the popularity of B.C. bud.

“It’s just unreal to think we’ve been around for 15 years now, especially considering how I started out by myself in a van with a pager, supplies and a handful of members,” says Ted Smith, head of Victoria’s Cannabis Buyers Club.

Ten years ago, the club was able to purchase a location to set up shop, which has been raided four times by police. Still, the group has won every court case on the basis of providing an essential medical service to users, and operations have remained.

“We’ve had some hard years, and we’ve watched many members pass away along the way,” Smith says. “But it is crazy to think that, at 15 years, we could be the oldest club in the world. So many have folded or have been shut down, but we’re still going. It’s been an amazing journey.”

The club now has over 3,400 members, two dozen growers, 12 full-time staff and 29 food and skin products to offer those who need supplies. Currently, the group is trying to raise over $100,000 to pay legal fees for a member who was arrested for trafficking pot.

When asked what he hopes for the next few decades, Smith would like to see clubs like Victoria’s sprout up all over Canada, especially where people need them most, like near senior homes and hospitals. He’d also like to see increased access to services — including deliveries, which the club can now make — in his own club.

“We try to teach people as much as we can. We have the website set up to offer recipes and medicinal how-to’s,” Smith says. “I never expected the kind of support we’ve seen, or that we’d be the most resilient club, but now we are.”

Cold shoulder

Victoria’s Extreme Weather Protocol (EWP) emergency shelter service met some heat this week when a few angry users were unable to find housing in the cold, as was reported to Monday.

“Surely we, as a society, can do better than to leave women — and men — out in the cold,” wrote Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group’s Janine Bandcroft, who was originally contacted in the email. “I’m not a big advocate of shelters — we need better and more creative solutions — but it’s cold and if that’s the best we can do then we should at least do that much.”

However, EWP organizer Jen Book says the EWP was in fact open straight through from Dec. 29 to Jan. 11, with the exception of a warm Jan. 5.

“I find it really disappointing to know that people thought we were closed down during such a prominent period of outreach and keeping the shelters open,” says Book. “We have been collecting people from out of town, in regions of Esquimalt, Saanich, even Sidney, and we’ve never had a lack of mats once this year.”

The service runs from November to March every year, and triggers include: temperatures near zero with rainfall, sleet/freezing rain, snow accumulation, sustained high winds, or temperatures at or below -2°C. So far, 35 days have met those qualifications this winter. The shelter has not been open yet this week.

While Book understands that people can get confused — especially if turned away from one shelter — but adds that the EWP has a very specific protocol: all people meet at the Salvation Army on Johnson for placement.

“I do think there is a misconception about our service,” says Book. “We’re not meant as an alternate to shelters already available. We’re more like the Red Cross responding to an earthquake. We deal with critical instances for emergency situations. We’re not a solution.”

City of cherubs

“Child-friendly” may not be the first phrase some would use to describe our city of “flower beds, newlyweds and nearly deads” — as Victorians proudly refrain — but that’s exactly what Jan White and Success By 6 Victoria is hoping to change by launching their annual Early Years Awards Survey this week.

The survey, which gives community members a chance to rate their favoured family-friendly locations, is attached to a campaign effort to break down a few dusty Victoria stigmas and help businesses see the value of a diverse clientele base.

“There is always a rhetoric in this city that seniors make up the mass of the population, but we know that family communities are growing, especially in areas like the West Shore, and this is a chance to really shed some light on that,” says award organizer White. “We’re hoping to raise the profile of those local businesses that do consider children in their structure, and help people realize that families and caregivers do have a lot to say about the issue.”

While the city is often labelled as expensive and geared for an industry of tourism, White says there are many lesser-known venues for those with tykes. Those venues often garner reports of positive physical environments, friendly and supportive staff, affordability, diverse entertainment (for adults, too) and accessibility.

Since the survey is entirely user-based, families on the front lines of surviving the moldy old city are the ones to make suggestions that all can learn from; they’re also the ones to choose who wins the awards — framed children’s art complete with a decal of Success By 6 approval, and media attention.

“As a parent of three myself, it’s great to hear so many people talking about accommodating children in Victoria,” White says. “Inter-generational interaction is so important for children’s social development, and this is a win-win. [The awards] are a real celebration of our community.”