CANNABIS CULTURE – BC NDP leadership candidate Dana Larsen wants the government of British Columbia to assume regulatory control over the province’s medicinal cannabis dispensaries like it does with other health issues.
“Health care is provincial jurisdiction. As Premier, I would assert provincial control over medicinal cannabis and create a regulatory system to license medicinal cannabis patients, non-profit dispensaries and their suppliers.” Larsen said in a press release issued today. “The fact is that BC already has a thriving network of medicinal cannabis dispensaries, some of which have been operating for over a decade. More are opening on a regular basis, and it is time for the provincial government to get involved and regulate this vital medicine.”
Canada has a federal medical marijuana program that allows patients to grow their own, have a caregiver grow for them, or purchase marijuana directly from the government. Dispensaries currently exist in a kind of legal limbo: they are not actually legal in Canada, but have been largely ignored by police and allowed to operate in cities across the nation.
“Over 10,000 patients across BC are currently being served by these dispensaries, and many tens of thousands more are forced to access this medicine from the underground street market,” Larsen said. “These patients have a constitutional right to access cannabis medicines and we should allow them to get it in a safe and reliable manner. The courts have ruled that InSite is provincial, not federal, jurisdiction, because it is a health care facility. Medicinal cannabis dispensaries are also health care facilities and therefore are also under the jurisdiction of the province.”
There are nearly a dozen dispensaries operating in Vancouver and Victoria who report only positive experiences in dealing with police, but some dispensaries in smaller communities have been raided and targeted by authorities. Recently, The North Island Compassion Club in Courtney was raided by police, who seized the club’s supply of medicine. Directors of the dispensary were arrested and could face jail time.
Larsen, a well-known activist and the founding former editor of Cannabis Culture, is also founder and director of the The Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, which provides medical cannabis to patients at two locations in Vancouver.
“Medicinal cannabis products should be covered by Pharmacare like any other prescription medication,” Larsen said. “As the Director of two non-profit societies which together serve about 3000 patients, I see every day how our patients are able to drastically reduce their use of pharmaceuticals. This results in a saving to taxpayers and reduces the strain on our health care system.”
Larsen has also promised, if elected, to end the war on marijuana in British Columbia by halting funding for pot-related police enforcement.
“We can end this war in British Columbia, and we will, whether it’s now or in the future,” he said in a recent interview with The Georgia Straight. “I’m going to make sure that we legalize cannabis in British Columbia or die trying, because it’s the most important thing we could do in this province.”
The candidate has gained the support from some high-profile friends, including comedy legend Tommy Chong, who participated in two days of live fundraising performances for Larsen – one at the Rio Theatre with his wife Shelby Chong, and a second MoneyBomb fundraiser at the CCHQ vapour lounge, where Chong grabbed a guitar and joined in on the Jams in the Key of Green.
Larsen has also made a series of non-pot-related campaign promises since his campaign started, including plans to make the Vancouver SkyTrain free for all passengers, to put warning labels and tax sugar-filled beverages, to decriminalize and unionize Vancouver’s sex trade, and to eliminate the province’s financial deficit by reversing corporate tax cuts and taxing the super-rich.
WATCH BELOW to see an interview with Dana Larsen about the latest on his campaign for leadership of the BC NDP and his fund-raiser featuring Tommy Chong.