No exemptions for Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club: Health Canada

No exemptions for Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club: Health Canada
A public seizure notice at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club on July 15, 2020.

After two years of waiting, Health Canada has issued a letter to the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club rejecting its application to be exempt from the federal Cannabis Act.

Following an earlier notice of refusal, Health Canada remained steadfast in its most recent decision to refuse the exemption, which it delivered to VCBC on May 30.

“I maintain that you have not demonstrated that the proposed exemptions are necessary for a medical or scientific purpose, or otherwise in the public interest, taking into account the objectives of the Cannabis Act (the Act) and the existing licensing and medical access framework,” wrote David Pellmann, an acting director general with Health Canada.

The club had previously requested that the federal health department permit it to sell THC products above the current allowed threshold of 10 milligrams and grant it permission to sell medicinal products from a storefront location.

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VCBC argues that the current cap on THC is too low, given that some of its patients require higher concentrations of THC to treat serious health issues like cancer and chronic pain.

They also say that a storefront is necessary to improve access for patients that may be unable to use online stores or have product delivered to an address.

However, Health Canada says the same effect can be reached through multiple units of the same cannabis product, until the desired dosage is reached.

Pellmann goes on reject any exemption being made on the grounds of scientific research for the same reason.

“However, the provided information failed to indicate why the research could not be done by administering multiple units at once, each containing 10mg of THC, or demonstrate why research cannot be conducted under an existing legal pathway for research with cannabis,” he wrote.

And as far operating a storefront, the federal agency says it may do so provided it follows the legal framework and only sells regulated, legal product.

With the refusal in writing, Smith says he’s confident he can now file a judicial review and have the courts rule in his favour.

“We look forward to taking our case to the judiciary to prove that Health Canada continues to violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of sick and dying Canadians with their unacceptable medical cannabis program.”

On top of the prospect of a judicial review, Smith’s group says it currently has a lawsuit and injunction in motion against the provincial government and Health Canada to seek relief from the punitive measures taken by the B.C. Community Safety Unit.

VCBC has made headlines with authorities regarding both issues before. Earlier this year, it was raided by authorities from the Community Safety Unit, a provincial agency that handles cannabis enforcement, and a similar incident in 2022 saw the group get hit with $6.5 million in fines.

Roger CollinsRoger Collins

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