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Source: Monday Magazine (CN BC)
Pubdate: February 8, 2006
Contact: editorial@monday.com
Website: http://www.mondaymag.com
Feedback: http://www.mondaymag.com/editfeedback/index.htm
Address: 818 Broughton St., Victoria, B.C. V8W 1E4
Fax: (250) 382-6188
Copyright: 2006 Monday Publications
Author: Andrew MacLeod

Council's cannabis confab cancelled-sort of

It took two years for Victoria's city council to set up a meeting with Health Canada about medical marijuana, but it would seem the federal agency balked when the city said the meeting had to be open to the public.

The public meeting was scheduled for the end of January before it was cancelled. "Due to the fact that the meeting was going to be public, that was an issue," says mayor Alan Lowe. Apparently, there were "certain proponents" the agency didn't want at the meeting, as it is currently fighting those individuals in court cases.

And who might those "certain proponents" be? One might be inclined to guess Health Canada was hoping to avoid an awkward meeting with Philippe Lucas, who ran for city council as a Green and is currently on vacation in Mexico (so they needn't worry about him). Lucas is the director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which distributes medical marijuana, and a founder and director of the lobby group Canadians for Safe Access. He has a long-running dispute with Health Canada around whether or not the agency can be relied on to supply cannabis to patients or to even listen to their needs.

But in case you're thinking the city council stood on principle, arguing in the name of accessibility that the meeting should be open to everyone, that doesn't appear to be what happened. Asked why they didn't just meet in private with the feds, mayor Lowe says, "We can't. We're not allowed under the legislation."

That's right, as soon as there are five councillors in a room for a meeting, it counts as a council meeting and can't be closed unless there's a financial or legal matter to discuss. The business with Health Canada doesn't qualify. But don't worry, there's a way around the inconvenience of being required to have open meetings. Says Lowe: "We're going to try to have staff meet with them in the near future."

We're left wondering what the mayor has been smoking: Health Canada spokesperson Chris Williams says the meeting did actually happen, with senior city officials-but not councillors-on February 1. His explanation for moving the meeting also differs from Lowe's. He says it was because of the federal election.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it.



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