The smell of sweet skunk and sounds of cannabis coughing were tell-tale clues for the location of the 11th-annual Victoria Cannabis Convention.
Many members of Victoria’s cannabis community gathered this past Sunday, Feb. 28, in UVic’s David Strong Building, to celebrate and educate people about marijuana’s benefits.
The event was hosted by Hempology 101, a non-profit society that looks to educate the public on marijuana’s medicinal, industrial, environmental and social benefits. The society gathered a who’s-who of marijuana activists to speak on issues confronting the marijuana community, marijuana’s history and new opportunities and products from this plant.
The list of speakers included lawyers, police and advocates.
Bill Finley from Victoria’s Hemp & Company spoke of “the beauty of this plant, from an environmental perspective.”
His company views their role beyond retail sales to include environmental education and excellence, right down to the construction of their stores. They recognize that their product, hemp, is a sustainable source of fabric, food, bio-fuel, paper and natural beauty products, all grown without toxic chemicals.
Finley, like other speakers, talked about “the many misconceptions that prevent hemp from realizing its potential” and the reefer madness that surrounds marijuana as medication and a social drug.
Ted Smith, president of Victoria’s Hempology chapter, sees the marijuana advocates’ biggest threat as “the Conservatives’ agenda to throw pot growers in jail with whatever C-crap [Bill C-15] they come up with next.”
Smith is also concerned about “the complete lack of [marijuana] research being done in Canada.” Currently, the only federally funded marijuana research is directed toward schizophrenia.
The conference wasn’t about re-hashing the issues marijuana activists and enthusiasts face, but focused more on education and building a sense of community.
Smith felt that the convention was a success.
“If one person decides they are going to do more out of this day, we have done real well,” he said. “[Cannabis conventions, with people] just getting together and speaking has not only informed people, but has made them feel like they are part of a greater community of people that are interested in more than just partying and getting high — to me, that’s really powerful and can have a great impact.”
Government and Bill C-15
The Conservative Crime Bill C-15 has been put on hold until Parliament resumes. But just how tough Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to be remains to be seen.
The Liberal party has not been very vocal on the issue either. However, on his last visit to Victoria where he spoke to students at UVic, Liberal leader Micheal Ignatieff said he would not legalize marijuana.
The NDP’s Libbie Davies — MP for Vancouver East — and Victoria MP Denise Savoie have both publically commented on the new legislation.
“There’s a lot of information, both in the U.S. and in Canada, that shows that mandatory minimum sentencing regimes for drug offences are ineffective,” Davies told media. “It’s based on the U.S.’s war on drugs, which has been a complete failure.”
Savoie has similar feelings on the issue.
“The current federal government’s approach to drug policy is poorly targeted, attacks symptoms while ignoring root causes and misses creative economic opportunities,” said Savoie. “This U.S.-styled war on drugs is simplistic, knee-jerk and counter-productive: we already spend 73 per cent of our drug strategy on enforcement, yet drug use continues to rise.”
By Bruce Dean