Pubdate: Thu, 26 Mar 2009
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 The Windsor Star
Author: Meagan Fitzpatrick, Canwest News Service


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

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Wednesday in the House of Commons
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," said the health minister.

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.

The government says the issue has been on its radar for some time and
that it is responding to public concern in developing the new rules.
It has not set a deadline for the new regulations to be in place but
the department doesn't anticipate the process being too lengthy.


Health Canada officials will develop proposed regulations and present
them to the health minister, who will make the final decision on the

A member of the British Columbia Compassion Club Society, a health
centre that provides access to medicinal cannabis, says 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, however, that 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, 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 Kubby explained he was a
registered patient under the government's medical marijuana program.

He sought clarification from Health Canada who told Kubby in a letter
soon after the incident that, "While Health Canada advises authorized
persons not to consume marijuana in public, there are no legislated
restrictions on such action." The RCMP later apologized to him.

He said people that are using marijuana for medical reasons already
have enough to worry about without having to abide by rules about
where to use it.

"Patients have such a struggle just to get through each day that all
these layers of regulations and laws hurt people, they don't protect
people, they hurt people," he said.

About 2,800 people are authorized to possess marijuana under the
federal government program.
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