OSHAWA -- Is marijuana an accessibility issue?
It is if you ask two new members of the Oshawa accessibility committee.
Like many local residents with disabilities or medical conditions, Ben Fudge and Marko Ivancicevic have federal exemption cards that allow them to legally smoke pot to manage their symptoms.
And both have run up against discrimination from police, security guards, business owners and members of the public who don't understand how the exemption works, or don't care.
"It's scary and embarrassing, it's frustrating," said Mr. Fudge, who was hit by a drunk driver when he was younger and now suffers from chronic pain and relies on canes and a scooter to get around.
He smokes marijuana about every two hours to keep mobile, which means he often lights up in public. As a result he has been wrongfully arrested, harassed by random citizens and asked to leave local bars and restaurants.
While attending a concert recently, Mr. Fudge says a security guard grabbed his face and tried to forcibly pull a joint out of his mouth, even as he explained his exemption.
Mr. Fudge and Mr. Ivancicevic want Oshawa to establish a bylaw that clearly lays out where medical cannabis users are allowed to smoke when out in public.
They plan to bring the idea to the next meeting of the accessibility committee and hope City staff and council will also take it seriously.
"This is medication. People can take a pill anywhere in public or take insulin if they're diabetic ... this should be the same thing," said Mr. Ivancicevic, who uses marijuana to treat a range of medical conditions.
The federal Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, which took effect in 2001, outline details such as who is eligible for a federal exemption, how much marijuana they can possess at one time and where they can obtain it.
But the regulations are silent on where it is and isn't OK to smoke.
Exemption cards advise users to respect local smoking laws that apply to tobacco, but Mr. Ivancicevic says medical cannabis and tobacco shouldn't necessarily be treated the same way.
"Yes, they're both smoked. But one is medicine and one is recreational," he said, noting that even when users respect those laws and smoke in designated areas, there is still friction.
Medicinal uses for marijuana include pain control, anxiety relief, stimulation of hunger in cancer and AIDS patients, relief of nausea and vomiting, reduction of intraocular eye pressure in glaucoma patients and help with some gastrointestinal symptoms.
The Oshawa accessibility advisory committee meets every month and meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Oshawa City Hall.
March 04, 2011
Medical marijuana users call for Oshawa bylaw to clarify smoking rules