After a prolonged and slightly circular debate, a motion to add Hempology 101 to the existing UVSS constituency groups failed to pass at the society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The motion was added to the agenda after Hempology 101, a student club, gathered a petition with the requisite number of student signatures and presented it to the UVSS board of directors.
And with meeting attendance at one point reaching 199 members, far beyond the amount needed for quorum, it was all but certain that debate around the motion would be thorough.
Club president makes the case for ratification
Joe Howie, Hempology 101 president, was the first to speak to the motion, and read a prepared speech that was passed around to those in attendance.
“We understand that many people in this room do not understand why the Hempology 101 club feels as though they should be considered an advocacy group,” Howie said. “Hopefully by the end of this speech we will be able to both clarify our club’s position and demonstrate the need for a cannabis advocacy group here at the University of Victoria.”
Howie, visibly nervous and having to pause at many points, went on to explain ways in which cannabis users are marginalized, whether it’s through current drug laws, social stigma, or for other reasons.
At one point, a member of the assembly objected to the reading of papers, a particular clause of Robert’s Rules. James Coccola, chair of the meeting and former UVSS chairperson, ruled that Howie required permission from the assembly to continue reading from his written speech.
After a quick vote, Howie was allowed to continue, but only made it partway through the rest of his speech before his speaking time ran out. In the written version of the speech, Howie writes that ratifying Hempology 101 as an advocacy group “[would] bring greater support and awareness for cannabis culture to campus.”
Opposition from other advocacy groups made clear
When it came time for other members to speak to the motion, many were opposed. Daphne Shaed, a Third Space coordinator, called the club out for claiming they’re oppressed when they’ve been allowed to smoke on campus grounds without issue, despite cannabis still being illegal. Cannabis users have a “whole fucking lot of liberty,” she said.
Many of those opposing the motion expressed similar sentiment. Lux West, UVic Pride office coordinator, pointed out that none of the other advocacy group members that got up to speak were in favour of the motion. “I wonder if that’s because they don’t trust Hempology to advocate for them,” West said.
One Indigenous student who took the mic said, “You don’t want to need an advocacy group. Trust me. It’s not fun being Indigenous, disabled, queer, trans, being racialized. It’s something that we fight for.”
After numerous other speakers, and an attempt to halt debate and call the motion to question, Howie returned to the mic to say that the club had “great respect” for other advocacy groups, and didn’t want to infringe on their work, and only wanted to be recognized.
It was not enough, however. When the issue finally came to a vote, it was decisive: motion opposed.
With that, a mass exodus of Hempology 101 supporters ensued, leaving the meeting below quorum. The agenda then skipped over ordinary resolutions straight to director’s reports and question period.
Club plans to continue with advocacy work
Ted Smith, founder of Hempology 101 and local cannabis advocate, said he wasn’t too surprised by the results. “It’s frustrating to hear people who are marginalized for other reasons say that we’re not being marginalized enough. But it is what it is.”
Echoing Howie’s own comments from the meeting, Smith said even when legal protections for marginalized groups are put in place, social discrimination lingers. “When black people were not kept as slaves anymore, they weren’t given the vote right away. They weren’t allowed to sit at the front of the bus. There were years where they had to fight every inch of the way.”
“The level of harassment and discrimination that we’re facing as cannabis users is greater than all these other people that are complaining that we don’t deserve a seat at the table,” he said.
Howie was not available for comment at press time. But moving forward, Smith said the club will continue with its regular activities, and is planning an all-candidates forum on cannabis legalization for early next year. As for the critics that say Hempology 101 doesn’t do enough work with advocacy groups, Smith said the club is open reaching out.
“I guess we haven’t really gone out and openly engaged with other clubs a lot, but it’s something we’re willing to partner and work with people as much as we can,” he admitted. “I’m not really sure what it is exactly that would be expecting us to do, but certainly we’re open and willing to work with anybody.”