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Helping patients from the outside and within


Things are still moving pretty quickly around here. I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who have been a part of the cannabis industry since it was more just a grassroots movement. With the MMPR fully in play, we are seeing MMAR growers become “master growers”, and in other cases, we are seeing the people who worked on the dispensary side transition to working with a Licensed Producer. It makes sense – these are in fact the ‘experts’: many who have worked on the ground with patients for years.

There were certainly lots of underground discussions happening a year ago about dispensaries putting in applications to become Licensed Producers. It makes sense to have those who have worked with patients over almost two decades actually at the forefront of policy creation. To deny the history of medical cannabis access does a disservice to our understanding of access in Canada, and what it’s actually like for patients trying to navigate this system. We’ve seen the framing of cannabis in the media change rapidly – I don’t doubt much of this is owed to the professionalization of the MMPR, alongside more research, and more interest (and of course, more money).

Looking at social movement success, change is not just about pushing from the bottom up, but you also need people pushing from the inside out to make real progressive gains. Even when I started (and I’m a novice compared to most), the landscape was vastly different than it is now. It is almost common sense now that cannabis has medical uses. When my parents are talking to me about cannabis oils, you know its gone mainstream. The MMPR has had a large part in breaking down barriers that were strongly held into place.

It’s more common when we think of activism for it to be solely something those with less power have to engage in to push for change. Can the word activism also be applied to those in power who go beyond normal expectations?

This also really made me start thinking about what activism means. I don’t want to speak for anyone – I am not even sure that any of these people define themselves as activists now- but activism is not inherently a good or bad thing. It all depends on the cause and the actions. Typically, they are thought of as ‘challengers to policy and practice’. The focus is on achieving a social goal, rather than just making money or power.

Of course, the truth is that activism isn’t well defined. It could be face-to-face conversations or it could mean organizing and marching in protests. It could be lobbying or it could be yelling. It could be using the courts to change the law, or engaging in civil disobedience every day. I always think back to Carl Hart’s eloquent words to Marc Emery (even though the two had a bit of a rocky start at the CSSDP conference), “Sometimes to be heard, you have to be loud”. Being loud has played a major role in how Canadians access cannabis, and in a variety of other important movements like protecting workers from exploitation, and promoting equal rights for women.

It’s more common when we think of activism for it to be solely something those with less power have to engage in to push for change. Probably because those with influence are usually able to accomplish their goals within ‘conventional’ means. Can the word activism also be applied to those in power who go beyond normal expectations? It’s much less visible than the activism we think of in public places, but it also has an important role. Push from below, and push from the inside, both have a place in the creation of change. The latter tends to be a lot less glamorous, and involves a push to promote change within a really rigid bureaucratic structure, and often under very powerful political constraints.

Hemp growing in a Vancouver roundabout earlier this year. Image via ctvnews
Hemp growing in a Vancouver roundabout earlier this year. Image via ctvnews

I like thinking about the ‘ecology’ of activism – the flower can only exist with the support of nutrients, roots, stems, pollinators and light, reinforcing not just the idea that working together is important if patient care really is the ultimate goal, but how this happens across time and space. The interplay between time and space is really how humans have adapted and shaped the environment, contributing to this rapidly changing landscape we are seeing right now.

Things are moving fast, but in such an environment, the MMPR will be better when it involves those who have a long history of doing this work and challenging the system.

The work we are seeing now is really important to patients – particularly new patients – who are caught in the crossfire of these two modes of access. I am still seeing some great compassion clubs open in Toronto, some which have really taken a more holistic approach, similar to the BCCCS in the support and services they offer (It’s not just medical cannabis dispensing). That is really great and patients will benefit from that space.

On the other hand, Tweed just acquired MedCannAccess and their Solution Centres – a place for in-person education and information. I can appreciate both sides because they each contribute some important things to access for patients. Some will choose the MMPR route, others will prefer to go with dispensaries. And so it is.

In any case, I have a deep appreciation for the fast-paced environment, and I’d like to see the people who have spent years on the ground with patients present and contributing to change under the MMPR for the better.

The post Helping patients from the outside and within appeared first on Lift Cannabis News Magazine.

Lift Cannabis News Magazine


October 5, 2015
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