$6.5 million in fines issued to Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, founder

$6.5 million in fines issued to Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, founder
Supporters of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club demonstrate outside the dispensary on July 15, 2020.

The B.C. Community Safety Unit has issued just under $6.5 million in fines to the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club and its founder.

The amount of the fines was determined based on the amount of cannabis products that were seized by officers during inspections on Nov. 14, 2019 and July 15, 2020.

The Cannabis Control and Licensing Act outlines that a fine should be double the retail value of cannabis sold, possessed for the purpose of sale, or produced in contravention of the act.

The VCBC was issued a fine of $3,235,465.74, and its founder, Ted Smith, was issued a fine of the same amount.

Smith says the club has refused to transition to the legal system to supply medicinal products because many of the products they supply are not available in the current system.

“For example, we have seven different types of suppositories, and we have a lot of patients who rely exclusively on suppositories as being one of the best methods to get this medicine into a person that avoids the stomach,” Smith says. “We have children with epilepsy that use the suppositories…and there’s no legal alternative for people with that particular product.”

Smith says the club also provides products at a higher dosage which some people rely on, and the costs of the club’s products are significantly lower than the legally available products.

“We sell high-dosage products as well,” Smith said. “If you go down to a legal store, you’ll pay about $13 for a cookie that has 10 milligrams, because that’s the legal limit, our cookies sell for $2.50 and they contain roughly 75 milligrams.”

“So someone would need to eat seven of [the legal] cookies to get the same effect as one of ours, which would cost roughly $100, compared to $2.50.”

The club was provided with three options to respond to these fines.

The first option is to sign a waiver, which would mean the club and found agrees they are in contravention of the act, accepts the monetary penalty, and waive the opportunity for an administrative hearing.

If the first option is taken, the fines would be reduced to the retail value of the cannabis seized, which would be $1,617,732.87.

The second option is to request participation in the administrative hearing.

The society will then have the opportunity to submit evidence to the hearing, which will be used to determine if it was in contravention of the act. If they are found in contravention, the full amount of the fines will be owed.

The third option is if the CSU does not receive notice within 30 days that the VCBC has taken either of the first options, the CSU will submit evidence to a hearing, which will then be used to determine if the VCBC was in contravention of the act.

In a statement, the VCBC says it provides medicinal cannabis that its 8,500 clients rely on.

“Thousands of dispensaries have been shut down across the country, leaving patients without access to the high-dosage, low-cost cannabis products they had access to for years under prohibition,” the statement says. “Late last year, the Montreal Green Cross (La Croix Verte) was raided and shut down, forcing many of their members to desperately turn to us for help, across the country, because there is nothing left in French-speaking Canada that can adequately meet their medical needs.”

Health Canada is the regulatory body that oversees medicinal cannabis, and as of this time it does not allow storefronts to sell the products.

In April 2021, the VCBC applied to Health Canada for exemption to allow the club to continue selling medicinal cannabis from the storefront.

At the time, the club says it submitted a 727-page application, which included letters of support from MP Laurel Collins, then-MP Paul Manly, and Victoria council.

This application is still under review.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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