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Oshawa considers accessibility issues around medical marijuana
Oshawa accessibility committee conducts education session for council members on medical marijuana issues
March 13, 2015
By Reka Szekely

Oshawa council got a crash course on the issue of medical marijuana at a recent council special education session by members of the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee.

In 2013 the committee created a medical marijuana working group and members of the group addressed council on March 2 and delivered a slideshow presentation on issues related to medical marijuana.

Working group members Ben Fudge and Marko Ivancicevic outlined the history of medical marijuana in Canada and highlighted some of the issues that affect municipalities, including zoning for legal marijuana production facilities and the licensing of vapor lounges.

Mr. Ivancicevic explains the motivation behind asking for a special council meeting.

“Since medical marijuana had become an accessibly issue in 2011, there really hadn’t been an official discussion between OAAC and council on medical marijuana,” he said, noting there have been changes to the federal government’s medical marijuana regulations in recent years. “It gave us the opportunity to talk to them about what the program is, how it came about and to discuss how the municipality could play a role in relation to the medical marijuana regulations.”

Mr. Fudge noted that there has historically been a large number of applications to Health Canada for the use of medical marijuana, which can be used by people suffering from a number of conditions including chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, anxiety and people undergoing cancer treatment. Health Canada estimates as many as 50,000 were permitted to use medical marijuana in 2014.

“So many people were applying and the government wasn’t expecting this big influx of applications,” said Mr. Fudge.

The federal government has instituted new rules regarding medical marijuana that streamlined the application process, removing the need for Health Canada to approve documents and instead giving physicians the ability to issue a document stating an individual’s prescription.

The rules also affect the production of medical marijuana, aiming to end small-scale personal production and moving to production by larger companies licensed by the government.

However, a court injunction is currently allowing people to continue to grow if they were licensed under the old federal program.

Councillors asked questions on a number issues, including whether people should present proof of a Health Canada permit at a potential vapour lounge.

Both Mr. Fudge and Mr. Ivancicevic are medical marijuana users themselves and said there are privacy issues with that sort of request. Mr. Ivancicevic points out the permit document contains personal information such as addresses and doses.

“At the end of the day a lot of people don’t necessarily talk about what their disabilities are; some of the documentation you provide proving that you have the right to consume would provide that information ... in all honesty no one needs to be privy to that information,” said Mr. Ivancicevic following the meeting.

However, at the meeting Councillor Nancy Diamond said it seemed illogical to license vapour lounges given that they could be the site of illegal activity if there is no way to test that visitors to the lounge have permits.

On the issue of zoning, Mr. Ivancicevic points out there is no consistency among municipalities. In Leamington a medical marijuana production facility operates under the agricultural greenhouse zone while Clarington slots it in as a processing plant under industrial zoning.

Oshawa has received one proposal for marijuana production in an area with agricultural zoning.

“I hope they’re able to draw a lot of information from (the education session) and use that information when dealing with that application,” said Mr. Ivancicevic.

Overall, he said the education session went well and hopes it promoted better understanding of medical marijuana use.

“I think there needs to be a distinction between the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana and unfortunately there are a lot of stigmas attached to medical marijuana because people can’t make the distinction between the two.”