Pubdate: Thu, 21 Nov 2013
Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 Chatham Daily News
Author: John Miner, QMI Agency

Woman Embarrassed, Panicked When Enveloped Arrived


Medical marijuana users across Canada received this envelope from 
Health Canada, identifying it was sent by the medical marijuana 
program. Health Canada has confirmed 40,000 other letters were sent 
this week in error.

It was a secret she didn't want carelessly shared with neighbours or 
anyone else in her small Southwestern Ontario community.

But this week the 56-year-old medical marijuana grower and patient 
was stunned when she received an envelope in the mail from Health 
Canada with her name, address and the printing for anyone to see: 
"Marihuana Medical Access Program."

"I cried at my mail box when I saw that, it was so upsetting. I have 
never been so embarrassed. I was in a panic," the woman told the Free Press.

"It has been important for me to be confidential. I do a lot of 
volunteering and a lot of non-profit work."

Health Canada confirmed to the Free Press Thursday the woman was one 
of 40,000 to receive informational letters on upcoming changes to the 
Marihuana Medical Access Program .

In a statement, George Da Pont, deputy minister of Health, said he 
had been advised that as a result of an administrative error the 
envelopes were labelled to indicate they were sent by the medical 
marijuana program.

"This is not standard Health Canada practice. On behalf of Health 
Canada, I deeply regret this administrative error. Health Canada is 
taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.

"Protection of personal information is of fundamental importance to 
Health Canada. We are in discussion with the Office of the Privacy 
Commissioner of Canada," Da Pont said in his statement

Living in a community where everybody knows everybody, the 
Southwestern Ontario woman is concerned that someone who saw the 
envelope at the small post office could talk about it to others. That 
could make her and her husband a target for thieves looking for 
marijuana and a subject for public ridicule.

"It would just take one person that would say, 'Hey, let's go check 
that out,' " she said.

She knows of another medical marijuana patient who was ridiculed by a 
local municipal councillor when it became known he was taking 
marijuana for cancer.

"Stigmatization exists," she said.

Since receiving the shocking envelope this week she has learned 
others in the medical program received the same identifying mail. The 
letter inside contained information on the changes being made to the 
program by the federal government in the spring.

Previous letters from Health Canada on the program had never 
identified that the mail was from the marijuana access program. It 
simply said Health Canada.

"Any time we have ever gotten correspondence in the past it has said 
from Health Canada. No one really knew what the package was. It kept 
our identity safe.

"They used to be discrete. I believe with the program ending they 
don't really care anymore. They put us up as a target," she said.

The Southwestern Ontario woman said she has complained to her MP and 
sent a written complaint to Health Canada.

The woman signed up for the medical marijuana program after suffering 
severe arthritis for decades.

"I have had tonnes of surgeries," she said. But in the end, doctors 
could only offer painkillers.

She wanted to avoid taking opioid drugs for her constant pain and 
learned that marijuana oil might be an option. It took years, but 
eventually she was approved to legally grow and take marijuana. She 
has been a grower for two years.

She extracts the oil from the marijuana bud, puts it in a capsule and 
takes one a day at nighttime.

"The first night I took the oil I was out of pain, I slept through 
the night. I hadn't slept for probably 20 years without waking up in 
pain. This is an amazing medicine," she said.

The federal government announced earlier it was overhauling the 
system for medical marijuana, moving from patient-grown marijuana to 
having marijuana grown by large commercial producers.



* Launched in 2001 it has grown from fewer than 500 authorized 
persons to more than 30,000 in 2013

* Program allowed approved patients to produce marijuana in their own 
homes or purchase from the government

* In response to concerns the system was open to abuse, the federal 
government is overhauling the system

* Under the new regulations personal production by individuals in 
their homes will be eliminated on March 31, 2014
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom