One of the oldest medical cannabis clubs in Canada filed a lawsuit against the BC government.
The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club had previously announced its plans to file an injunction and a constitutional challenge against the provincial government in response to several raids and $6.5 million in fines against the club for operating outside provincial regulations.
The club also seeks to force the federal government to change medical cannabis regulations that prevent storefronts like the VCBC from buying and selling cannabis.
Ted Smith, founder of the VCBC, says the club has been preparing for this type of challenge for years.
“We are looking forward to getting our case before a competent court to resolve these issues, which not only affect our patients but impact medical cannabis users across Canada,” Smith said in a press release. “Our amazing lawyers have prepared solid constitutional arguments that should both protect our organization and force Health Canada to make important changes to their medical cannabis program.”
In 2022, the VCBC was issued $6.5 million in fines by the BC government’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) as part of their ongoing investigation into the club for their continued operation in defiance of federal and provincial cannabis rules.
The CSU issues compliance orders to unlicensed cannabis retailers that impose a monetary penalty equal to two times the retail value of the cannabis sold, possessed for the purpose of sale, or produced in contravention of the provincial Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.
The CSU raided the VCBC on two different occasions, in November 2019 and again in July 2020, seizing cannabis products, cash, and the club’s books documenting their finances.
The fines levied by the CSU were based not only on the estimated value of the products seized ($123,606.29) but also on the value of the cannabis sold in the time between the two raids (just under $1.5 million).
Ted Smith, who first began his buyer’s club in 1996, says he sees the fines and the repeated raids as an unfortunately necessary step in his desire to challenge Canada’s cannabis rules further.
The BC government changed their cannabis regulations in 2022 to prevent CSU proceedings from being stymied by a court challenge. Smith says the club will also be accusing the provincial government of “abuse of power and subversion of power” because of this rule.
The VCBC says they are still waiting for an exception from the Federal Government that would allow the club to continue to operate. Although the club has celebrated getting support from the municipal and provincial government on the exemption, this support did not translate into a change in enforcement from the provincial government.
The VCBC was one of the driving forces behind a seminal Constitutional challenge that ruled in 2015 that Canadians have the right to possess cannabis for medical purposes in forms other than dried flower.