Pubdate: Sat, 26 Dec 2015
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Noor Javed
Page: A4


Told by Air Canada He Couldn't Get on Flight With Prescription Pot

Michael Korchak was admittedly a little nervous flying home to 
Toronto from Halifax for the holidays last week.

This was the first time the Burlington resident was travelling with 
his medicine on him: a small bottle of medical marijuana.

He knew from some research that possession of the drug could lead to 
questioning and delays at the airport. But he thought he was 
prepared. He arrived three hours early for the domestic flight, so 
his papers could be checked. And he said he told Air Canada employees 
right away that he was carrying the medicine, and showed them all the 
accompanying documentation.

Right off the bat, things didn't go well.

"I thought being upfront would be appropriate," he said. "But I was 
told my form of medication wasn't acceptable ... and that Air Canada 
policy would only accept the pill form, while I had the herb form," 
he said, adding he was told that he could not board the flight with it.

Korchak, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, who is being released 
due to medical reasons from an injury, said he went to RCMP officials 
at the airport to get clarification, and they verified his documents, 
telling him he should be allowed to travel.

With their permission, he proceeded to his gate - when an Air Canada 
manager told him he would have to throw out the drugs in order to get on board.

"I was subjected to unprofessional and discriminatory conduct from 
Air Canada representatives and their agents; including being 
threatened to have me removed from the airport, not get a refund, and 
be placed on an Air Canada No Fly list," Korchak wrote in a letter to 
Air Canada a few days after the incident. "I was discriminated 
against from the moment I was upfront and honest about my needs and 
was embarrassed in front of a large amount of people, airport 
employees and passengers alike.

According to advice available online, travelling with medical 
marijuana can be a challenge and users are advised to be transparent 
and patient with the process of getting their papers checked.

Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman with Air Canada, said while Korchak 
"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," 
he said. "Our procedures for travelling with medical marijuana have 
since been amended to include leaf form."

He said the airline has also apologized, immediately offered a 
refund, and assisted him in booking a flight on another airline. 
Korchak said he has yet to receive his refund, and still feels 
haunted by the experience.

"If I was carrying insulin, or some other medication, I wouldn't have 
been treated like this, or questioned in this way," he said.

But now with Air Canada's policy change, he says he is optimistic his 
experience will prevent someone else from being embarrassed and 
singled out like he was.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom