Today (June 4), Toronto-based Hope for Health launched as the country’s first cannabis-focused charity registered with the Canadian government.
The focus of the venture is on “empowering patients to be able to effectively manage their health, while also offering autonomy on which cannabis producer and products to choose from.”
As the country transitions to a legal framework, many fear the country's vast body of medical patients are being ditched for a framework designed for the recreational-use market. Product prices are at a premium, access points are diminishing, and a new excise tax doesn’t exempt medicinal users unless a company opts to absorb the cost.
In response, the charity aims to provide a renewable monthly stipend to “qualified registered patients” for the purchase of cannabis products through federally licensed producers. Currently, there are over 170 licensed cultivators, processors, and sellers authorized under the Cannabis Act.
The charity hopes to onboard 150 applicants in its first year.
Hope for Health says it also intends to create educational resources for health care providers explaining the many therapeutic applications of cannabis and establish research partnerships with academic and medical organizations.
The organization was started by the founders of Auxly Cannabis Group, which provides financing solutions for cultivation partners: Hugo Alves, Michael Lickver, and Vlad Klacar, while lawyers at Bennett Jones LLP, with the support of Glen Fraser, Maruf Raza and David Danziger of MNP LLP. As such, Auxly will kick start the foundation with a “cornerstone donation to get it operational and moving forward.”
As the first CRA registered cannabis charity, Hope for Health is registered to the Auxly’s headquarters in Toronto (2 - 777 Richmond Street West) and operates as under the class “advancement of education”.
Alves, who is also Hope for Health’s director, commented: “We started the Hope for Health project three years ago because we believed it was an important cause that all industry participants that have benefited from the cannabis industry could rally around and support. When we founded Auxly, we realized that it was critical that Hope for Health remain completely independent and run by a group of strong leaders who care deeply about the charity's goals.”
In an effort to establish independent leadership, Hope for Health announced the appointment of Dr. Jenna Valleriani, CEO of the National Institute of Cannabis Health and Education (NICHE) Canada and drug policy expert, as executive director.
So proud to be a part of the first charity that will use charitable donations to establish an independent financial affordability program for cannabis patients in Canada. Follow @Hope4HealthCan to stay updated on our next steps ! #cdnpoli #cannabis https://t.co/VICnffo01c— jenna bobenna (@jennav5) June 4, 2019
“This is such a tremendous and exciting opportunity to improve the health and well-being of Canadians who are unable to access the medicine they need,” said Valleriani in a press release.
She recently completely a postdoctoral fellowship at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) at the University of British Columbia and published an educational toolkit with the Canadian Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.
“My research and advocacy have always underscored issues around access to cannabis, and the financial affordability program will set a new standard on how we can work together to help to alleviate those barriers.”
The organization also announced the appointment of its directorial board, which includes Rielle Capler, a postdoctoral research fellow at the BCCSU and cofounder of the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES), and Canopy Growth Corporation’s chief advocacy officer and longtime activist, Hilary Black.
Very excited and honoured to be part of this incredible new organization and to work with a fantastic team supporting access to cannabis for medical purposes! https://t.co/UOl1sborBK— Rielle Capler (@RCapler) June 4, 2019
“As patients wait for research to advance and for cannabis to become an approved and covered medicine, patient advocacy remains crucial,” said Black.
“It’s a privilege to join this board to collaborate with this team of leaders to support Canadian patients.”