Medical marijuana user files human rights complaint over smoking laws

Ontario regulations banning medicinal-marijuana users from smoking on bar and restaurant patios violate the human rights of people with disabilities, alleges an Ottawa man who has filed a complaint over the issue.

Russell Barth submitted the complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission on Monday on behalf of himself and his wife, Christine Lowe.

"We're not asking for special rights; we're just asking for the right to use cannabis where people use tobacco," Barth, an amateur comedian, said Tuesday.

The letter accompanying the complaint alleges that the Ontario ban "infringes on our rights to gain access to services and infringes on our ability to perform on stage and to seek possible future employment as performers.

"It has also caused us much stress, ill health, embarrassment and humiliation."

Barth said he obtained a Health Canada licence to use medical marijuana in 2003 after being diagnosed with a variety of disorders, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, asthma and fibromyalgia, a syndrome characterized by fatigue and multiple pain points in muscles throughout the body.

He lives on a disability pension and is a full-time care giver for Lowe, who has epilepsy and also uses medical marijuana.

Barth said he needs the drug every two to three hours to treat his own medical symptoms.

"If I am having a muscle spasm, if I'm having nausea or anxiety or an asthma attack, I need to have my medicine immediately," he said.

On May 7, after performing at the amateur night of a comedy club in Ottawa, Barth said he began to feel intense pain in his legs and went outside to the outdoor patio area, where people were smoking tobacco.

He walked to the edge of the patio and was about to light up a joint when he was approached by a friend who worked at the comedy club. The staffer asked him not to smoke on the premises because of provisions of the Ontario Liquor Licence Act that ban liquor-licence holders from allowing people to consume a controlled substance on their property.

Afterward, a friend suggested that the incident was the fault of the government's regulations, not the bar owner.

Barth read the regulations and agreed that was the case.

Ontario law has no exemption for medical marijuana

Lisa Murray, a spokeswoman for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, said there is no provision or exemption for the use of medical marijuana in the regulations on controlled substances as they are currently written.

Under Health Canada's medical marijuana rules, people who possess marijuana for medical use must follow all other federal, provincial and municipal laws regarding controlled substances.

"Smoking marijuana for medical purposes in a public setting, thereby potentially exposing others to the drug's effects, is unacceptable," states a federal government document on the issue. "The authorization simply allows possession but does not give patients permission to use marijuana wherever or whenever he/she chooses; the rights of others must also be considered."
source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation