Last weekend I attended a cannabis convention at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, organized by the International Hempology 101 Society, and was fascinated and inspired by the panel of knowledgeable presenters.
A large crowd including the old and young, both medical users and recreational users (and probably one or two non-users), gathered in a modest lecture hall on VIU’s lush, mountain-side campus. Each speaker said his or her piece and then took questions from the lively audience.
Former Marijuana Party candidate and licensed medical user Mik Mann was first up to bat, discussing the difficulties of dealing with health professionals as a med-pot patient. Mik, who suffers from spinal arthritis and has been growing medical marijuana since 2004, says its important to build a relationship with your doctor and to keep pressing even if you can’t get a signature.
“After you’ve collected 5, 6, 7 visits with your doctor and discussed all the reasons why he won’t sign and how cannabis is helping you,” he said, “it’s a good idea to send that application in along with a letter explaining all the different things that were discussed, all the doctors you’ve seen, and all the different appointments you’ve had. Send that all into health Canada with your application that’s not actually signed by a doctor. Of course, they’re not going to give you a permit; however, this gives you a large degree of protection if you are arrested when you go to court and you claim a medical defense. When the judge says, ‘what have you actually done to get legal?’ you will have quite a bit to show. Now what you’re doing is putting the onus back on the system to show how this system does not meet the needs of Canadians.”
Cannabis historian and Cannabis Culture/Pot-TV regular Chris Bennett discussed the many historical and modern instances of religious uses of MJ, and also discussed his upcoming freedom of religion Charter challenge where he will take the government to court for the right to use marijuana legally for spiritual purposes.
I am always intrigued by Chris’s research into the esoteric history of this amazing plant, which shows a deep, omnipresent relationship with humanity on a scale that seems unbelievable at first glance, but undeniable and truly compelling once explored. By tracing the roots of the word ‘cannabis’ through vast amounts of historical documentation it becomes apparent that most major religions have important connections to the plant, many using it as a holy sacrament to put them in touch with their gods or godheads. I am excited about Chris’s upcoming legal battles, which I feel have the potential to cause serious changes to Canadian law if successful.
Next up was Dr. Paul Hornby, a biochemist and human pathologist who discussed the chemical structure of the three main active ingredients of the cannabis plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), and Cannabinol (CBN), which interact with cannabinoid receptors that occur naturally in the nervous systems of many animals, including humans.
I admit I didn’t know much about Dr. Hornby or his work beforehand, and was captivated by his descriptions and Powerpoint presentation showing the wildly variant rates of these cannabinoids from strain to strain, and the effects they might have on med patients and recreational users. Watch CC for more on Dr. Hornby, coming soon…
Medicinal marijuana Diva Michelle Rainey, one of Marc Emery‘s co-accused and a good friend of Cannabis Culture, gave a rousing personal speech about her struggle with Crohn’s disease and cancer and the relief she finds from cannabis. Michelle is a tireless, passionate activist who dedicates much of her life to helping sick people acquire medicine, and provoked tears from more than one audience member and a standing ovation from the crowd. Find out more about Michelle and her work at MichelleRainey.com.
Victoria police officer David Bratzer also got the crowd going, despite his calm, composed and very thoughtful demeanor. The embattled active-duty police officer and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition was recently banned by the Victoria PD from speaking about drug policy at a harm reduction conference because of his anti-prohibtion viewpoint. The crowd voiced many of their concerns about police and drug laws with the officer, who talked about his experiences on the Force and as a drug policy reformer.
He told the crowd that most officers are good people, but are uneducated or simply not interested in the drug war debate. Though he was tight-lipped about the temporary ban placed by his bosses on his drug policy speeches, he discussed the role of police in the crafting of public policy and the failure of the current system.
Hempology President Ted Smith, another unwearying marijuana activist, was the final speaker of the day and read a useful and inspiring list of things we can do to help fight the drug war effectively (I have asked Ted for the list and hope to publish it on CC soon). He also talked about his work as an activist and the successes and setbacks of the Hempology Society and Cannabis Buyers’ Club over the years (including police raids on their bakery!). Read more about Ted and the Hempology society at Hempology.ca.
The conference received a decent share of attention from local newspapers, who ran several pieces before and after the event date. There seemed to be an increased focus in media coverage on a “no-pot smoking rule” at the convention, which organizer Andrew Brown said was due to an uptight local who was spreading alarming and inflammatory false info about the event weeks beforehand.
“A concerned Nanaimo citizen sent an email to the RCMP, to the head of every single department, to the communications department, to the president and everybody, pretty much, on campus,” Brown told the crowd at the beginning of the conference, “making some some fairly outlandish claims that we are all – every one of you, by the way – was going to have large amounts of cannabis and you’re going to be selling it, and giving it away for free too.”
The crowd laughed as he motioned his hands toward himself and said, “so give, please, please!”
In the end, there was no trouble with security or police, and organizers expect come back to the school again next year.
Check out Hempology.ca for more information and future events.