Cannabis activist Jodie Emery addresses the crowd at today's 'Rally for Reasonable Access' in support of WeeMedical – a local dispensary undergoing what some are calling harassment by police – as WeeMedical operator Joel Wilson looks on.

Rally for Reasonable Access calls for changes to marijuana laws and enforcement practices in Campbell River

Two of the most well-known cannabis activists in the country were in town today to help a local dispensary in their fight to remain open.

Two of the most well-known cannabis activists in the country were in town today to help a local dispensary in their fight to remain open.

Marc and Jodie Emery each took the stage at Spirit Square this afternoon to profess their appreciation for what WeeMedical is undergoing right now – which they say is nothing short of police harassment – and to celebrate cannabis in all its forms.

Joel Wilson, operator of WeeMedical, who organized what was called the “Rally for Reasonable Access,” says the point of the event was mainly to educate, but he also wanted to make it known that, despite being raided by the RCMP numerous times since opening up shop three months ago – most recently on June 30 – they’re not going anywhere.

“We just want the police to stop harassing us,” says Wilson. “We’re not going anywhere. They can keep raiding and it’s just going to cost the taxpayers money. We’re going to keep staying open. Shut us down one day, we’ll be open the next day. The people want it. It’s helping people. It’s giving them quality of life again.”

Marc Emery spent five years in a U.S. prison for operating a mail-order cannabis seed business, and says he’s more focused than ever on addressing what he sees as a “failed policy.”

“I’ll go anywhere dispensaries are under fire, at no charge, just to support the idea that we need these dispensaries and that it’s essential to how our legalization is going to look in the years ahead,” he says.

“It should never have been against the law. It’s a 50-year failed policy. All we’re doing is correcting an imbalance that’s long overdue. There should have never been a law like this, so we’re going to make sure the law is ineffective by opening these dispensaries. It’s a revolution that’s going on that is peaceful and honest and is something that the Canadian people support.”

Marc says there are 300-400 dispensaries across Canada now, “and people love it. They just love coming in and being treated like a first-class citizen, buying in a store just like everyone else and not having to sneak around making surreptitious arrangements or agreements with people.”

One of the arguments against letting dispensaries like WeeMedical operate, despite it technically being against the law, is that it’s the role of police to enforce laws, not determine which ones are worth enforcing.

Marc, however, says policing, by its very nature, is a “discretionary job.”

“Police pick and choose which laws they enforce every day, every hour, every minute of their job. They see people without seatbelts [on] they don’t always give them a ticket. They see people going too fast, they give them a margin of error. they see people possessing marijuana, they don’t charge them. So, in fact, police officers pick and choose which laws [they enforce] all the time.

And they are ignoring dispensaries in other communities, Marc says, so why not here?

“Why has Port Alberni licensed all their pot shops and the police don’t bother them? Why has Victoria licensed their pot shops and the police don’t bother them? Clearly, the police are ignoring the law at the behest of city council.”

Which he says is something Campbell River city council should really be doing, as well.

“We need better direction from Campbell River city council. These dispensaries are not going away, so city council will have to come up with a way to accommodate them. They will not be able to use law enforcement as a way of avoiding that reality. These places are going to pop up more and more all across the Island, and they’re going to stay. It doesn’t matter if you charge us. Each of these places is staffed by a true believer, and going to jail is a badge of honour. Getting charged is a badge of honour. We all want to be able to say when we’re old and we’re talking to our grandkids that this is what we did during the marijuana wars and how we made something legal.”

Dr. John Kristensen, a family doctor on Cortes Island, also spoke at the rally, citing the many benefits of cannabis. He says we probably don’t even know all the beneficial qualities of it yet.

Kristensen says he has recognized marijuana as a treatment option since the 1970s for conditions like asthma, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapeutic treatments, arthritis, depression and anxiety, as well as substituting it for opiates in the treatment of chronic pain.

“I prescribe cannabis quite readily in lieu of other traditional options. I always have,” he told the crowd, but adds he has “a very hard time getting colleagues to prescribe, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their lack of familiarity with the active ingredients in cannabis, but also the implied threat by the College of Physicians, who regulate our licenses.”

Marc’s wife Jodie then took the stage and gave an impassioned speech about the type of Canada she envisions, which includes more access to cannabis products for people who want them.

“This government is forcing citizens to be in pain and suffer and face criminal punishment for their use of cannabis or their desire to provide cannabis. That’s not the kind of country most people believe we should live in. Canada is supposed to be a country of tolerance and compassion and diversity – and that should include diversity in the types of medicines we take and the foods we eat.

“It’s such an injustice that our own governments, who are paid by our tax dollars are using weapons and using force to harm peaceful citizens for using cannabis,” Jodie told the crowd.

“The government continues to tell us that we just need to be patient. ‘Just wait. It’ll be legal. Just be patient.’ Well, you know what? A lot of you can say, ‘you know what? I am a patient, and I am suffering and I am in need of medical medical marijuana access, and I can’t get it because you arrest the people who give it to me.’”

The rally, which ran from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, was well attended.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Jodie said, “but this is very impressive and very encouraging.”