The Royal Canadian Mounted Police ruled officers may not smoke the marijuana while wearing their full uniform, or in public, despite the wishes of one officer with a medical marijuana license for PTSD issues.
(Update, Friday 1:49 p.m. As this story developed Thursday, it seemed like a lighthearted, whacky Canada story. But Thursday night the RCMP made Francis turn over his uniform, which is, frankly, unfair and embarrassing. The pictures attached to this National Post story are heartbreaking. He still has a job, for now.)
There's some debate over whether Cpl. Ronald Francis, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is currently assigned to desk duty, should be allowed to smoke at work, or whether he can do so in his RCMP uniform. Francis contends there's no policy stopping him from smoking while at work, and that it should be OK so long as it doesn't impair his police duties. But the RCMP thinks it's inappropriate, and that any medical prescription they find inappropriate can be challenged. Canada's Justice Minister Peter MacKay agrees. Canada's marijuana advocates have already taken up Francis's cause.
Francis began seeing PTSD symptoms years ago after serving in First Nations communities. He received a medical marijuana license this month, and smoking is now part of his daily schedule. “I get up in the morning, have my coffee and the marijuana. I go at lunchtime, have a marijuana joint, and then again in the evening. That would be my medical regime," he tells the CBC. He cautions marijuana could become an even bigger part of his day as his tolerance develops. "It may take two joints in the morning, I don't know," said Francis.
But he contends there should be no issue with his smoking on the job. “There’s no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking marijuana. There’s no policy in the RCMP that says I cannot smoke in public. I have the right to smoke it in my red serge," he says. (His "red serge" is his RCMP uniform.)
The RCMP argues that, no, he cannot smoke weed at work. “Definitely a member that has been prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge taking his medication,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gilles Moreau told the CBC. “It would not be advisable for that member, it would not portray the right message to the general public, it’s definitely not something we would support or condone.”
The RCMP falls under Justice Minister Peter MacKay's jurisdiction, and unfortunately for Francis he agrees with Moreau's ruling. “My observation is the same as for politicians, police: They fall in a similar category in the sense that it sets a very poor example to flout the law,” MacKay told reporters Thursday. “It sets a very poor example for Canadians.”
Moreau explained the RCMP are examining the policies governing how officers with medical marijuana licenses should operate at work. "If it takes place outside, it has to respect the individual but also their co-workers, and it has to respect the Canadian population at large by taking it in a respectful way," he said. But, for now, Francis must seek alternatives.
But Adam Greenblatt, president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, argues Francis doesn't necessarily need to smoke the weed, per se. "Greenblatt says Francis could always take his marijuana in more discreet ways, such as baking it into a cookie or using a vaporizer," the Canadian Press reports.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.