03/21/2016 04:59 EDT | Updated 03/22/2017 05:12 EDT

Banning Public Medical Marijuna Use Solves A Non-Existent Problem

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A representative from Sky High smokes from a vaporizer during the Champs Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Champs is a business-to-business expo for distributors of smoking-related paraphernalia. Photographer: Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Ontario government has a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. It is going to protect you and your children from the dangers of second-hand cannabis vapour.

We've all experienced that annoyance, maybe on the bus, at work, in parks and malls in every corner of the province. Packs of medicinal cannabis users vaping their cannabis, wantonly blowing their cannabis vapour in our faces, laughing at us while they "get high." Call me sheltered, but I have never encountered it -- maybe this is a real problem.

There are approximately 25,000 licensed medicinal cannabis patients in Ontario. That is a whopping fifth of one per cent of the population. The odds of encountering someone in a public space using medicinal cannabis are pretty low.

I understand that's not the point of regulation, and if something is deemed a public health concern, it shouldn't matter how small the risk is, so let's look at this from another perspective.

People who are ill, suffering from severe anxiety, PTSD, undergoing chemotherapy, etc. are just not likely to be publicly taking their medication. It's human nature to desire privacy in most health care matters, and cannabis treatment is no different in that regard -- especially because of the social stigma of what many consider drug use.

Six per cent of the population in Ontario suffers from diabetes -- that is 30 times more than cannabis patients, and you would be hard pressed to find someone taking metformin or injecting themselves with insulin in a public place. It simply does not happen.

Regulating medicinal cannabis under the same legislation as tobacco in Ontario makes little sense, when Health Canada and our courts say it's more like insulin or vitamins.

Regulations for non-medicinal use will follow tobacco and alcohol laws, we can be assured of that much.

The Ontario government got it right the first time: Medicinal cannabis use should have an exemption under Bill 45.

I get it. When the government announced that medicinal cannabis would get an exemption under Bill 45 for public use, every MPP, every minister and the premier got a bunch of angry calls and letters from parents outraged that their kids might be exposed to second-hand cannabis.

We know that legal recreational use cannabis is coming and some people are likely confused about the regulatory differences between medicinal cannabis and adult use cannabis. This was unintentionally poor communication from the associate minister of health, and the news of the exemption was broadcast far and wide.

If there are so few patients and they mostly want privacy, you may ask why the reversal of the exemption is such a big deal.

There are very few safe places for medicinal cannabis users, especially new patients who have little knowledge about cannabis and the safe use of vaporizers. Vapour lounges and cannabis dispensaries support and educate these patients who have no where else to turn.

Under Bill 45, vapour lounges where patients go for treatment will be shut down and dispensaries who demonstrate the safe and best practice use of vaporizers will no longer be able to provide that advice. Medicinal cannabis patients will be left to their own devices, experimenting with vaporizers until they get it right, perhaps exposing their families at home to second-hand cannabis vapour.

The Ontario government got it right the first time: Medicinal cannabis use should have an exemption under Bill 45. The communication of this exemption could have been made clearer.

Medicinal cannabis users should be able to use cannabis in licensed vapour lounges, and licensed dispensaries should be able to demonstrate the use of Health Canada-approved vaporizers to licensed patients.

Once that is properly communicated to parents concerned about exposing their children to second-hand cannabis, the calls and letters will stop, and common sense cannabis policy will return to Ontario.

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