Pubdate: Thu, 26 Mar 2009
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Meagan Fitzpatrick, Canwest News Service
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Kubby, Steve)


Rules Uncertain

OTTAWA (CNS) - Canadians who have permission from the federal 
government to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes are facing 
impending restrictions about where they can light up.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said yesterday that the government is 
concerned about the issue of smoking medical marijuana in public.

"That's why I have instructed my officials to examine this issue and 
develop options," she said in the House of Commons.

The federal government has been under pressure to clarify the rules 
around medical marijuana use in public. One recent request for 
clarification came from a bar owner in Burlington, Ont., who faced 
allegations of discrimination when he asked a medical marijuana user 
not to smoke outside his business.

The existing Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, which came into 
force in 2001, do not stipulate where patients can use their 
marijuana. While users must abide by any federal or provincial 
legislation and local bylaws that restrict smoking cigarettes in 
public places, there are no other specific prohibitions on medical 
pot use in public.

Health Canada officials are to develop proposed regulations and 
present them to the Health Minister, who will make the final decision.

A member of the British Columbia Compassion Club Society, a health 
centre that provides access to medicinal cannabis, said the 
organization understands the need for clear rules but hopes they are 
no more strict than the ones imposed on cigarette smokers.

Jayce Sale said they are concerned about the impact of heavier regulations.

"It gets into a slippery slope because medical marijuana users have 
that right to use it, and so by creating more barriers around where 
they can do it is a concern because it's limiting options for them," she said.

Steve Kubby, now a California resident who was a licensed medical 
marijuana user when he lived in Sechelt, B. C., said he is also 
concerned about the Canadian government's decision to take a tougher 
stand on medical marijuana use.

"We don't have those kinds of requirements for other people when they 
use their medicines," said the 62-year-old, who uses cannabis daily 
to ease the effects of his rare form of cancer.

"It is just so difficult to understand how someone that is struggling 
with cancer as I am ... my society would want to send police with 
guns to terrorize me and my family, tell me where I can and cannot 
smoke, to arrest me if I happen to be using cannabis in the wrong 
place or at the wrong time."

In 2004, Mr. Kubby was hiking in a park and confronted by an off-duty 
RCMP officer who took his joint, threw it on the ground and told him 
he had no right to smoke it there even when Mr. Kubby explained he 
was a registered patient under the government's medical marijuana program.

The RCMP later apologized to him.

About 2,800 people are authorized to possess marijuana under the 
federal government program.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom