Alberta Health Services has reportedly refused to accept a $6,000 donation from a cannabis club that wished to honor one of its members. Patrick Parsons, a board member of the Calgary Cannabis Club, said that the group directed the donation to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in recognition of the excellent care it provided to Rick Beaver. The member of the club died of esophageal cancer at the age of 65 last November.
“He was quite impressed with the empathy and compassion he received so we thought it was a no-brainer to us that the money raised go there,” said Parsons. “Rick was raving about how good the staff was.”
Parsons said that the money had been raised at several charitable events including a fundraiser on December 9 that included live and silent auctions. However, when the group tried to make the donation, officials at Alberta Health Services (AHS) refused to accept the money. Parsons believes that the taboo against cannabis still exists, despite the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana in Canada.
“The stigma is still there—when you’re talking about dollars and cents, there’s probably the thought that the money’s from the illegal sale of cannabis but that’s not the case here at all,” he said. “The money was raised in a very thoughtful, legitimate manner.”
Parsons said that he believes that much of the medical community still does not accept the medicinal value of cannabis.
“Until they accept the research about the good it does, there’s a roadblock,” said Parsons.
Parsons said that the donation was especially significant because Beaver had consumed cannabis at the center as part of his treatment.
“He was one of the first people to use cannabis at the cancer center and have it documented, they had it on his chart,” said Parsons.
Health Agency Responds
AHS said in a statement that Health Canada and fundraising foundations are currently consulting about the issue of cannabis philanthropy. Until their work is completed later this year, the agency will be unable to accept cannabis-related donations.
“Until the engagement is complete and a longer-term perspective on cannabis philanthropy has been determined, AHS will defer accepting any donations from the cannabis sector,” it stated. “AHS will update its foundation partners about progress of the engagement throughout 2019, and will also provide materials to support board discussions and decision-making related to cannabis.”
The statement added that the AHS does not “direct what kind of gifts foundations may or may not accept.”
Parsons said that the money raised by the Calgary Cannabis Club will instead be donated either to help club members grow their own medicine or to the Calgary Humane Society. The club has a primarily medical focus and counts more than 100 paid members on its roster.