Medical-marijuana advocate David Hutchinson prepares to speak to White Rock council.

Medical-marijuana advocate David Hutchinson prepares to speak to White Rock council.

White Rock’s support sought for medical cannabis

Provincial program urged, as federal plans upset medical-marijuana advocates

David Hutchinson knows well the benefits of medical marijuana; he saw the difference it made to his daughter, Beth, during her struggle with brain cancer.

Beth “got great benefits from medical cannabis, and we extended her life,” Hutchinson told White Rock council last week.

Beth died on Oct. 25 at the age of 20. Less than four years before that, Hutchinson’s wife, Kay, succumbed to the same disease.

Hutchinson, a South Surrey resident, shared the heart-wrenching details in an appeal for council’s support of an effort to convince the B.C. government to strike a task force to “set parameters for a provincial medical-cannabis program.”

The move is part of ongoing opposition to new federal regulations around medical-marijuana grow-ops that are slated to kick in April 1. They are to shift the medicinal-marijuana program to a system of regulated commercial growers who will supply authorized users; at the same time, all current licences to possess or produce pot will expire.

Opponents – including Hutchinson and White Rock resident Joy Davies, who later thanked council for hearing the appeal – argue the changes will harm those who rely on the drug, by restricting its availability and raising prices.

Representing the advocacy group, Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners, Hutchinson outlined steps taken in recent years that show support for a made-in-B.C. program. Those include municipalities’ endorsement of decentralization of the program in both 2010 and 2011.

Hutchinson noted the BC Liberal party promised in 2013 to continue to consult on the matter, however, “municipalities and patients have not been consulted to date.”

White Rock has more than 50 registered medical-marijuana patients and many unregistered, Hutchinson said. He predicted that number will be well into the hundreds by 2020, when the total Canada-wide is expected to hit 500,000.

“This issue is not going away,” he said.

Hutchinson asked council to engage with local patients and advocates on the issue, and to engage with the province.

Last month, during a public meeting on proposed zoning for commercial operations, Davies asked White Rock officials to focus their efforts instead on lobbying for provincial change. She, too, noted that those who will be harmed by the new regulations have never been consulted.

Davies told Peace Arch News in an email Saturday that the appeal to municipal councils is “a last attempt to get the provincial government’s attention.”

“We are beside ourselves in trying to figure out what else to do,” Davies writes. “We have been trying to ask government to ‘bridge the disconnect’ between legitimate patients and organized crime, but government is not listening.”

On the suggestion of Mayor Wayne Baldwin last week, council voted to receive the information and refer the request to staff. A report is expected back in February.

This week, the Liberal Party of Canada in South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale is set to host a town-hall meeting on the issues surrounding legalization of marijuana.

Set for Thursday, 7:30 p.m., at Sunnyside Hall (1845 154 St.), it is touted as an opportunity “to have a discussion in our community about all that’s involved with the regulated legalization of marijuana… to have an informed and critical conversation about how to legalize, regulate and tax the production, distribution and use of marijuana.” Doors open at 7 p.m.