A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who believes he should be able to smoke medical marijuana while in uniform has had his uniform seized by fellow Mounties.
Cpl. Ronald Francis, who serves with J Division in New Brunswick, told CBC News two officers showed up at his home at Kingsclear First Nation Thursday evening.
Francis said his cousin shot video as the officers took his regular working uniform — "anything that identified me as a member of the RCMP: my work shirts, work pants, my jackets, my gloves, my hat, my cap badge."
"I worked hard for that uniform," he said. "I bled for that uniform. I cried for that uniform for 21 years... They ordered me to give the only thing that I've lived and identified with for 21 years."
His red serge uniform was not seized as it was at his girlfriend's, but he has been ordered to hand it over to the commissionaire at J Division tomorrow at noon, he said. Francis said he will follow the order.
"But they will not get back their medal for my 20 years of exemplary service with the RCMP."
'They ordered me to give the only thing that I've lived and identified with for 21 years' - Cpl. Ronald Francis
He still has his badge, as he is still a police officer, but he said he is currently on medical leave.
"It was very emotional for me," Francis told CBC-Radio's As It Happens, fighting back tears.
"I spent 20 years of my life in service to this country and stood up for the members that stand up for the Canadian public and they took one of the things that was most valuable to me 'cause I earned that uniform, like any other member of that division."
The seizure of his work clothes came after Francis was pictured smoking marijuana while wearing his red serge uniform.
RCMP officials had previously told him he could not smoke the drug while in uniform.
Francis said he knows the two officers who seized his uniform and one of them "almost broke down crying" as well.
"But I don't blame them," he stressed. "They're following orders, it's not their fault."
Francis said the media attention since his story went public Thursday morning has been overwhelming, but he expected it. He said he was speaking out to draw attention to the need for more mental health services within the RCMP.
Francis believes the order to take his uniform came from the RCMP commissioner's office in Ottawa.
He said he was also served with documents earlier in the day by the acting district commander, ordering him to turn in his uniform, not to speak to the media, or represent the RCMP or their views.
"So basically they're trying to disavow me," he said.
"The heavy hand’s coming down on me, but I knew I’d have to prepare for that," said Francis. "It’s got to change before more people die."
Francis received a prescription for medical-grade marijuana on Nov. 4.
He says marijuana has helped him to calm down and reduces his PTSD symptoms.
His prescription allows for three grams a day, which he estimates to be nine to 15 joints, though he said he doesn’t typically smoke that much.
Francis' story drew quick criticism from members of the RCMP and the public.
“Definitely a member that has been prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge taking his medication,” said RCMP assistant commissioner Gilles Moreau. “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.”
Francis said he's not at all surprised with the backlash, but he said he's exhausted all other options, and going public is the only way things will finally change internally at the RCMP.