Pubdate: Fri, 06 Dec 2013
Source: Wellington Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The Times
Author: Robin Baranyai


For a government that wants easier access to Canadians' private 
information, they sure aren't very careful about protecting it.

Recently, Health Canada sent out a mailing to 40,000 medical 
marijuana users across Canada, clearly identifying them as such-with 
the words "Marihuana Medical Access Program" clearly visible-right 
out on the envelope.

To no one's surprise, a class-action suit has been launched. 
Representing the plaintiffs, Kate Saunders says the breach "not only 
compromises the confidentiality of participants' personal and health 
information, but it also compromises participants' physical safety 
and security."

Ordinarily, when lawyers talk to the press about damages their 
clients may suffer, their claims can sound a tad overblown. But in 
this case, they're right on the money.

People who may have drugs on their person typically aren't keen to 
advertise it-particularly to people who might be desperate to get 
their hands on a fix. Not to get all Reefer Madness here; it's 
marijuana, not oxycontin. Still, any drug is a commodity that can be 
stolen and traded. No one wants to be fingered as an easy target, or 
have "friends" stopping by at all hours. Once word gets around that 
the guy in 7B has a reliable, ongoing supply of medical grade pot, 
life may never be the same.

In a statement, Deputy Health Minister George Da Pont apologized to 
the 40,000 letter recipients, noting "Health Canada is taking steps 
to ensure this does not happen again." Confidence is not, well, high.

Also in medical marijuana news this week, employees at another 
federal institution-the Royal Canadian Mounted Police-are navigating 
the hazy rules around smoking pot on the job.

Corporal Ronald Francis, who's currently on administrative duties, 
received a prescription to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic 
stress disorder. The law enforcement officer was apparently surprised 
to learn that his employer doesn't want him smoking up in uniform, in public.

"There's no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking 
marijuana," Francis told the CBC, "... in public. I have the right to 
smoke it in my red serge." RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Moreau 
has a different opinion: "It would not portray the right message to 
the general public; it's definitely not something we would support or condone."

The dispute is farcical, but it exposes some genuine logistical 
considerations. Employers can't just demand that people take their 
prescription medications at home, after work, with Pink Floyd on the 
stereo. Patients may be prescribed several doses a day-to treat the 
side effects of cancer treatment, or the symptoms of glaucoma or 
PTSD. They can't just forego treatments and expect everything to be fine.

There may always be some who oppose it. Nevertheless, medical 
marijuana has busted through traditional notions of accommodation. 
People can't smoke indoors at work. So where are they supposed to go? 
Do employers need to build separately ventilated treatment rooms, or 
just offer employees extra time to change their clothes? And how can 
they ensure employees exercise sound judgment after a treatment?

These are fair questions for the Ministry of Health. Just hope they 
don't reply by letter.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom