If you had any doubt that cannabis stigmas are alive and well in Canada, check out the story of the Calgary Cannabis Club, which tried to donate C$6,000 recently to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. But their donation was turned down because the medical facility doesn't want to take money from the cannabis industry.
The story began in November, 2018, when Alberta resident Rick Beaver passed away at age 65 following a long battle with cancer. Beaver was well known for his medical marijuana advocacy and grew his own cannabis to help combat the symptoms associated with his cancer treatment. When he passed, his friends at the Calgary Cannabis Club wanted to honor Beaver by making a donation to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre where Beaver had spent his final days.
"We felt really good about giving it back to the community and the Tom Baker in particular because I spent a lot of time with Rick while he was going through his last therapies there," Pat Parsons told Global News. "The chemo was very hard on him but the staff there were really good to him."
To show their appreciation, Parsons and other members of the Calgary Cannabis Club organized an auction that raised C$6,000 for the cancer center. However, after contacting Alberta Health Services (AHS) about making the donation, Parson says the group was shot down.
"It was a little bit heartbreaking," Parsons said. "The cannabis community came together to show our support for Rick and we thought it would be a thoughtful way to give back to the community."
In a statement, the AHS said they "will defer accepting any donations from the cannabis sector" until they have had the time "to develop a long-term perspective on cannabis philanthropy." Parsons has attributed the centre's refusal to accept the money to stigma surrounding cannabis use.
"When you hear the word 'cannabis' maybe you think black market or an illegal cannabis. The fact is most of the people in our club are medical patients that have a prescription."
The AHS' decision is particularly hurtful because cannabis significantly improved Rick's quality of life in his final years.
"Rick knew he would be on a lot of other harsher drugs if he wasn't medicating with cannabis," Parsons added. "Cannabis gave him as much of his life back as he could have in the later stages of his life which was, I think, a big part of the reason why he chose to stay positive."
Parsons says his group is currently looking for other ways for the Calgary Cannabis Club to donate the money raised to honor their deceased friend.