Compassion Roots began as the Wellness Centre in 1997 as the other half of the British Columbia Compassion Club Society (BCCCS). With proceeds from the Dispensary's cannabis sales, the two sides of the Club have worked together to subsidize important health services to our members such as medicinal herbs, supplements, bodywork therapies, and consultations with herbalists, counsellors, and nutritionists.
How did this collaboration come about? Literally, it is Her Story – two women pushing the edge of medical accessibility, injustice, and inequality. In 1997, Hillary Black was spending her time on a bike with a backpack filled with cannabis, illegally delivering it to patients who were struggling with the side effects of their medications. Meanwhile, herbalist Jasmyn Clift was offering herbal medicine and herbal first aid to her patients on both a park bench in East Vancouver and on forest-defense front lines.
These two young women came together sharing an ethos that alternative holistic health care should be accessible to all, under any circumstance. In their first conversations, Jasmyn pointed out that cannabis was helping to alleviate the side effects of the pharmaceuticals people were struggling with but it was not treating the underlying health conditions. Together they envisioned a wellness centre where the cannabis profits could provide a whole system approach: herbs, bodywork, counseling, and nutrition to those in the community that needed access to it the most.
In 1997 Jasmyn and Hilary found a beautiful space they could afford to rent on Commercial Drive. They had to move about seven tons of garbage and renovate it themselves, building the space out of love, recycled materials, and volunteer labour. They also found a team of practitioners, who were committed activists and were willing to work for 20% of their market wage; this enabled all patients to receive their treatments at minimal rates including for free as needed.
As most of the clients being treated at the Wellness Center had complex long-term health conditions, the herbs provided to them needed to be the strongest most affordable medicine possible. So, Jasmyn created a reliable network of ethical medicine suppliers to ensure this quality. The Compassion Club herbal apothecary was the largest organic and ethically wildcrafted apothecary in Canada.
This approach to alternative health care not only mitigated and managed symptoms; it helped drop viral loads, shrink tumors, manage addictions, and transform lives. This authentic approach did not go unnoticed; it gave the Compassion Club integrity and credibility with municipal and federal governments, Health Canada, and the medical community including physicians and other non-profit health services. This reputation was the shield that protected the BCCCS from law enforcement.
The Compassion Club was the longest-continuously running cannabis dispensary in Canada and the United States. Its success and survival, which is largely due to the Wellness Centre, led to the proliferation of other compassion clubs and the medical cannabis movement. Without the courage and dedication of the BCCCS teams, the Dispensary, and the Wellness Centre, we may not have legalization in Canada today
Over two decades, the Compassion Club had become the largest non-profit wellness centre in Canada and the US. Each year, thousands of dollars of herbs and supplements along with over 3000 subsidized appointments yearly.
We are proud of this legacy in Canadian Herstory and continue to stay true to our commitment to providing accessible and high-quality health services.