HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cannabis Compassion Club Opens In The Queen City
Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jul 2000
Source: Nelson Daily News (CN BC)
Author: Gray Miles


A Nelson man who has a herniated disk in his back and buys marijuana
to relieve to his pain has found a new source: the newly-opened Nelson
Cannabis Compassion Club.

"I feel they preform a valuable service to the community. Instead of
people basing their reactions to the medical usage of pot on hysteria
and past stereotypes, we need to look at the medical benefits,' said
the man, who did not want to be identified.

The man said he suffers both from severe pain and muscle spasms, and
finds the effects of marijuana beneficial.

"It enables me to get on with my life,' he said.

Phil McMillan is the coordinator of the club. From a cramped downtown
office, he sells pot to patients over the counter, an act which is
still technically illegal. But far from being concerned about arrest,
he wants to reach out to Nelson City Police in an unusual way.

"I'm wanting to connect with the police - I want a liaison officer to
work with me on this, so that if they pull over someone with marijuana
and see identification issued by me, they won't arrest anybody, and
they'll return any pot they seize, because it would be cruel not to,'
said McMillan.

McMillan, who was a social worker in Vancouver for eight years before
moving to Nelson, is the founder and on the board of directors of the
club, an organization that exists to provide marijuana to those who
suffer from illnesses whose symptoms are eased by the use of the drug.

The club sells pot out of it's recently opened downtown Nelson office
for $20-30 per eighth of an ounce to those who can provide a doctor's
note saying they suffer from a medical condition.

McMillan says he has operated the club underground for two years but
only opened the office six weeks ago.

Inspector Dan Maluta, however, of the Nelson City Police is wary the
new organization.

"Why do you think they contacted your paper to begin with? They want
to make a case for the legitimization of a banned, illegal substance.
Their ultimate aim is to legalize marijuana for mind-altering use,"
said Maluta.

McMillan disagrees. He divides marijuana use into two clear camps
which he says are not linked - recreational and medical uses.

"I have to help people medically, that's my goal. If you had seen what
I have seen you would know why," said McMillan.

McMillan told the Daily News that he does smoke pot recreationally,
but said this was irrelevant to the club's existence.

Some of his clients suffer from AIDS and various forms of cancer, said
McMillan, adding that marijuana brings them relief and solace from
their suffering.

"The local branches of the Cancer Society and the AIDS Society have
been supportive in that they carry our brochures, but I would say
almost all the doctors support us too - they just won't write a
prescription," said McMillan.

The club has a membership of around 40 people, and it purchases its
marijuana from small, family-run grow operations for $2000-$2600 per
pound, according to McMillan.

"I've never had to buy from any criminal organizations. There's just
too many mom-and-pop organizations around town for that to be a
problem," said McMillan.

McMillan hopes to eventually grow his own marijuana legally, and to
see laws which permit medicinal use of marijuana formally recognized.

He pointed to a recent court decision in Vancouver which ended in a
suspended sentence for a member of the much larger Vancouver-based
B.C. Compassion Club (upon which his smaller organization is modelled)
as a sign that laws are relaxing.

Mayor Gary Exner cautiously agreed with McMillan's

"There are some politicians who are coming out for it [medical use of
marijuana], because they are under pressure," said Exner.

"As long as they sell marijuana to the members, then no problem. If
they are going to start selling to the general public, they need to
come forward and get a business licence," he said.

Exner pointed to the legal entanglement three years ago at local
marijuana paraphernalia shop Holy Smoke, to say that the real concern
in the community surrounded the sale of marijuana to youth, not
medical marijuana.

"If they are staying within the law, I say welcome and good luck,"
said Exner.
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