Canada is a world leader in the field and is the first G8 country to move towards national legalization of the recreational market. We should be proud as Canadians that we are world leaders in this regard.
That pride, however, should not cloud our judgments when it comes to how law enforcement, employers, and others approach this topic. To believe and act like you are impenetrable and can walk around with your cannabis not aware of the clear and present dangers that still exist is to invite a major disruption to your life at best, or disaster at worst.
The New Green Card is what I call a ‘countermeasure’ that can be used to help avoid persecution and prejudice from those who do not understand the medical and recreational cannabis worlds.
As a lawyer, I have background experience in working on both sides of the criminal justice system in addition to the civil side of litigation. This experience has erased all expectations that people do the right thing and the hope that those with power over you are educated. The one thing that has become very clear to me is that there are two kinds of people who can stand in the way of your rights, there are those who oppose the move towards accepting cannabis as a medicine and those who vehemently oppose the move towards recreational use.
Sadly, many of the opponents are still in law enforcement and are very aware of how they can complicate your life while making it look like they are abiding by the regulations.
Take my recent blog post for example, as I was asked about being pulled over by a police officer and him smelling cannabis in your vehicle. In this instance, you will most likely be arrested for any number of offences despite how much you and your friends think you are bulletproof. We see this happen time and time again. First and foremost, there is really no good way to determine if you are driving impaired by cannabis. Unlike alcohol where there is a tried, tested and true measure of blood alcohol levels the science is nowhere near ready to deal with accurately measuring impairment by cannabis by standardizing testing. Which means that impairment is left to the subjective opinion of the officer, and if he doesn’t like you or your medicine you are in for a rough time.
Some officers are designated DRE’s (Drug Recognition Experts), and they take a brief course that is supposed to make them ‘experts’ on determining if you are impaired by a drug. The reality is such testing is widely unreliable and often inaccurate as the officer has no idea as to how the subject usually acts. They may be slow talkers, they may mumble, they may move slowly due to chronic pain issues and all of this can be used to convict you without the right explanation.
So how would a Green Card help?
Most cannabis users are reckless about their consumption and falsely believe that the system protects them. For example, many people who medicate with cannabis often carry it on them like they would with prescription opiates. In the event of being pulled over, having this paraphernalia could cause him to make a wrong conclusion about you and the vaporizer that he sees sitting in your purse, or in a cupholder. The officer might not even smell weed, but because he sees a vaporizer, he concludes that you were vaping cannabis while driving; instead of the true reality, you could have just thrown in a cup holder for when you get home.
In this situation, many would start to get nervous; the situation worsens when you realize that you do not have your prescription on you- because your prescription is the big clunky bottle. This is especially a problem for men who don’t carry purses or even women who stepped out quickly without one.
Unfortunately, the officer does not have to call Health Canada and get a list of prescribed patients that may or may not be up to date, even though he knows he can. This is because he now has gathered enough evidence to investigate the situation as a crime and have you arrested. The problem is this is an expensive ‘what if’ because once that ship has sailed you now have to hire a lawyer and spend $5,000-$15,000. You also lose your car for 7 days, and a host of other problems await.
I am not saying this will always happen, but believe me, it is happening every day in every town, and it is making a lot of criminal defence lawyers rich.
But, this could go down another way. Instead, when you are pulled over and asked about your vape, you respond by pulling out your medical prescription card. In doing this, you also indicate to the officer that you use that vape to take your medicine and are well aware of the restrictions on use when driving. Your card immediately shows the officer you have a legitimate prescription and the amounts you are authorized to carry; it shows a 24-hour line to a nurse that can be used to confirm your diagnosis and holds the info on your medical document.
Now the officer’s mind has been affected, you show a proper piece of ID to move him off his initial thinking, he now knows if he screws with you he can be open to a lawsuit, it is clear you can possess cannabis legally. He has no reason to smell the vape. He has not smelt cannabis up to this point and so would have no reason to believe there has been any used in the car. You indicate you are going home that you never medicate in the car, and you apologize for speeding, Crisis potentially averted, not guaranteed, but your exposure to risk is significantly reduced, and this means a lot because just your arrest could mean losing your job and savings.
Speaking of jobs, there are many nefarious employers out there looking for a reason to fire a pot smoker. If you are careless about how you approach this issue, you can be let go and then again you have to hire a lawyer and sue them or take them to the Human Rights Tribunal which usually means victory in the end but chaos until you get there. I get one call a day from someone fired for legal cannabis use, and it is often not worth spending the money on the lawyer to fight it, and the person usually moves on. Thus, a Green Card can be another way of protecting yourself. A narrow-minded boss may fire you without a second thought if he discovers you medicate and he doesn’t get the right information.
Keep in mind that in many provinces the government wants to restrict recreational users to only be able to use in their residences. That means only those scripted can medicate at work, think how much easier it will be with a card if one is ever questioned at the workplace.
Instead, you can immediately show your Green Card if you are confronted by a colleague, boss, or professional about your medical cannabis use. In doing this, you are raised above the level they feel some users are. Many think that the population is using the medical regime as an excuse to be high all the time, and we can understand that in some measure, but if you have a Green Card you look at least like someone who has seen professionals and carries around an authorization that will make someone think twice before going after you.
Finally, the other day an old client of mine told me of another way he was assisted by his green card. He was going through customs at Laguardia when he was reminded by a U.S. Customs Officer that he had inadvertently left a small amount of product in his bag from weeks before.
The U.S. Customs Officer asked him about it, and upon responding, he brought out his green card and the customs official looked at him sternly and said…” you know it’s not legal in our country like it is in yours, you cant bring this stuff in here, but my brother is a vet and he swears by it, I hope we make it the same one day here as well.” He threw the product out and let the man into the States. He could have been arrested or sent back and lost his airline ticket.
The card gives legitimacy to your medical condition. It won’t solve all the world’s problem, but it can drastically reduce your exposure to being screwed over by those not as educated on the topic.
Please contact Joya to get yours today and thank you for fighting the good fight with us. We are offering a special introductory discount where you get $5.00 off for leaving us a review on google and another $5.00 off for liking us on Facebook and leaving us a facebook review. We encourage you to get this card to help or prevent these kinds of situations.
By: Phillip Millar, Cannabis Crusader nominee, LIFT 2017 CCA
Also, share your stories with us so we can learn how people respond to your circumstances.
Joya Halls: Joya@medmc.ca or 1 (844) 312-5143