Canada hospital bars legal pot

November 12, 2005

CP, Edmonton Sun

SASKATOON -- A patient who has federal permission to use marijuana for medical purposes was told he couldn't light up at a Saskatoon hospital.

Peter Christensen was brought to City Hospital by ambulance from Vermilion. He said he ended up not getting the tests he needed because he wasn't allowed to use his medication.

Christensen, who lives in Marshall, Sask., said he was approached by a nurse and a security guard shortly after he was admitted and told medical marijuana was "not recognized'' at the hospital.

Christensen was authorized to use marijuana in 2004 by Health Canada to treat a movement disorder known as Tardive Dyskinesia. He uses it every six to eight hours.

He asked to go back to Vermilion and was escorted outside by the security guard to use the cannabis before hitting the road.

He noted his conversation with the staff was cordial, but he doesn't understand why the cannabis became an issue.

Jean Morrison, senior vice-president of health services for the Saskatoon Health Region, said she can't comment on the specific incident but said the hospital's smoking policy will be clarified to prevent similar incidents.

The policy permits smoking in designated locations outside the hospital, but "rarely, the manager or designate of an area/ward may create a special provision for a client with special needs."

Morrison said medical marijuana would be a "special need," just as burning sweetgrass is considered for aboriginal people.

Because the smoking policy does not specifically refer to medical marijuana, Morrison said it will be revised to make it clear for all employees.

"The use of marijuana for medical purposes is a relatively new phenomenon. Even though it's been around for a few years, we've only had two incidents that we've dealt with. So in fact our staff haven't had a lot of exposure to it," said Morrison.

Health Canada began authorizing people with specific medical conditions in 2001. To date, there are 858 authorized medical marijuana users in the country.



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