Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 2015
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: 14


TORONTO - Michael Korchak says he could see the stares and hear the

He'd hit a snag on his trip home to Burlington last Thursday for
Christmas and a group of Air Canada employees was gathering around him
at its busy departure gate at the Halifax airport.

The 25-year-old Canadian Armed Forces member, who's in the process of
receiving a medical discharge because of a traumatic injury suffered
on duty, has a prescription for medicinal marijuana to help with
chronic pain.

But despite having a legal prescription and all the necessary
paperwork, he was repeatedly told he couldn't board the plane unless
he threw out the medicine - worth about $100.

Korchak says when he tried to prove his case with his documents, he
was told he was being "difficult" and Air Canada workers threatened to
call security.

"It was humiliating," he said Wednesday. "Clearly, the stigma (around
marijuana) is still there. I don't think if I was a diabetic with
insulin I would have been treated the same way."

Korchak says he arrived for his flight three hours early with all his
paperwork in order because he hoped to avoid any hassle.

His prescription was verified by the RCMP and the Canadian Air
Transport Security Authority, but no one from the airline would
explain its policy, which only allows medicinal marijuana in pill
form, he said.

"(A manager) just said, 'Air Canada's policy is you can't have it and
that's it,'" he said.

"They were incredibly rigid and not at all discreet. All of this
happened at the gate. Michael Korchak holds up the medical marijuana
that got him barred from boarding a Air Canada flight in Halifax. More
Air Canada employees kept showing up. By the end, there was a crowd of
10 to 12 of them. They're staring, they're whispering. Eventually, I'm
told if I don't drop the issue they're going to have security remove
me from the airport."

Korchak says he asked for a refund so he could fly with another
airline, but Air Canada initially refused.

The airline changed its mind, but he says he still hasn't received the

Korchak eventually flew to Toronto on Porter. The airline had no
problem with his medicinal marijuana, he said.

Air Canada issued an apology to Korchak Wednesday, saying it has now
changed its medicinal marijuana policy.

"Although he had official medical authorization forms, he was not
accepted for travel because his medical marijuana was in leaf form and
our travel policies at the time only permitted medical marijuana in
pill form," Air Canada spokesman Isabelle Arthur said in a statement.

"Our procedures for travelling with medical marijuana have since been
amended to include leaf form."

Korchak says the apology is "too little too late" and he's filed a
formal complaint with Transport Canada.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt