Donation money from Calgary Cannabis Club refused by cancer foundation

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Cannabis may be legal in Canada but its stigma has not been eliminated entirely. This seems to be especially true when an organization in Alberta recently turned down a donation from another.

Members of the Calgary Cannabis Club raised $6,000 in honor of a former member Rick Beaver who passed away in November following a long battle with cancer. Beaver used cannabis to ease some of the symptoms associated with the bladder and esophageal cancer he experienced later in life.

“He knew he would be on a lot of other harsher drugs if he wasn’t medicating with cannabis,” said Pat Parsons, another member of the Calgary Cannabis Club. “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.”

After the Club raised $6,000 at the memorial auction for Beaver, they tried to donate the funds to Tom Baker Cancer Centre in his name but the donation was turned down last Friday.

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“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,” said Parsons. “The chemo was very hard on him but the staff there were really good to him.”

The group believes they are being discriminated against specifically because their organization is based around cannabis.

“They would not accept the funds. I felt hurt and that we were being discriminated against for being a cannabis club,” said club member Cynthia Wong. “It was a shock, especially from a cancer centre where cannabis is used as a medicine to help with pain and not being able to eat after chemo and stuff like that.”

The Alberta Cancer Foundation said that they were surprised by the donation and that they’re not prepared to accept or deal with donations that are cannabis related.

“We appreciate the generosity of this group and any group that wants to raise money for Albertans facing cancer but for us it’s a matter of timing more than anything else,” said Phoebe Dey, VP of communications and marketing with the foundation.

Alberta Health Services said that they are in the process of trying to fix this issue so that funds from similar organizations can be accepted in the future.  

“Alberta Health Services (AHS) is engaging with health leaders from across Canada, including Health Canada and in Alberta, to develop a long-term perspective on cannabis philanthropy,” a statement released by AHS said.

 “AHS does not direct what kind of gifts foundations may or may not accept. 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. 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.”

In the meantime, the Calgary Cannabis Club said it is seeking out other donation options to honor Rick Beaver.

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