11/28/2013 11:22 EST | Updated 01/28/2014 05:59 EST

RCMP should allow Mountie to smoke medicinal pot in uniform: cannabis advocate

FREDERICTON - The case of a New Brunswick Mountie who's reportedly been told he cannot smoke the drug while in uniform underscores the need for employers to better understand medicinal marijuana, an advocate for medical cannabis said Thursday.

Adam Greenblatt, president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, said the RCMP should ultimately allow Cpl. Ron Francis to smoke in uniform providing he is not impaired while working.

"If this officer was a diabetic, would they prevent him from using insulin on the job?" Greenblatt said from Montreal. "That's the way I see it."

Francis could not be reached for comment, but the CBC reported that he told the network there's no policy in the RCMP that prevents him from smoking his doctor-prescribed, medical-grade marijuana in public or while wearing his red serge or regular uniform.

The CBC said Francis is assigned to administrative duties and was prescribed three grams of marijuana a day this month to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, though the Mountie doesn't smoke that amount and does not believe the drug has negatively impacted his ability to be a police officer.

RCMP deputy commissioner Gilles Moreau told the CBC that Francis should not take his medication while in uniform and the RCMP is looking at its internal policies on the matter.

The RCMP said Moreau was not available to comment Thursday but it issued a statement in response.

"Any member on a mind-altering drug — such as marijuana, OxyContin, Dilaudid — is not permitted to perform operational duties, including carrying a firearm or operating a police vehicle, as this could pose a risk to themselves, a co-worker or the public," the RCMP said.

"We are continuously working to strengthen the support we can offer employees affected by operational stress injuries. The commissioner has made it clear both publicly and to the employees of the RCMP that if you get sick or injured on the job, we will look after you — and we will do it fairly."

In a subsequent email, RCMP Sgt. Julie Gagnon said Mounties who are prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge or regular uniform while taking their medication.

"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," Gagnon said.

Greenblatt said Francis could always take his marijuana in more discreet ways, such as baking it into a cookie or using a vaporizer.

But Greenblatt said he also understands the public relations problem it poses for the Mounties, who have a responsibility to uphold anti-drug laws.

"I would assume that it actually helps (Francis) do his job better, but you can't be busting grow-ops and arresting drug traffickers and waging this prohibitionist war, and at the same time having your officers smoking cannabis in uniform," he said.

"Obviously the conclusion is that this war on marijuana is ridiculous and this is just another one of these hypocritical, totally ludicrous situations that arises from the prohibition on cannabis."

Greenblatt said the use of medicinal marijuana is becoming increasingly common but it remains relatively new territory for employers.

He commended Francis for bringing the issue to the public's attention.

"The more we talk about it, the more we have an intelligent debate on this subject, the more perceptions evolve and the more we can reasonably accommodate people who use cannabis as a medicine."

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