Ontario's Liberal government says it will re-examine its recent move to allow medical marijuana users to smoke and vape the drug anywhere in the province, just one day after announcing the change.
"We've heard the concerns around this regulation, and we're going to take this feedback and see if this regulation is the best way to move forward," Associate Health Minister Dipika Damerla said Thursday.
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Medical marijuana users were quietly exempted this week from a law banning the use of e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is prohibited, meaning they could smoke or vape just about anywhere, including at work or in restaurants. Restrictions on e-cigarettes take effect Jan. 1.
"We provided a very narrow exemption for medical marijuana," Damerla.
However, under the exemption, employers or restaurant owners could still ban medical marijuana users from smoking on the premises, she said.
"There could be a situation where somebody needs it for pain management, so it's about accommodating their interest but also making sure that Ontarians are protected from any harm of second-hand smoke or … vapour," she said.
The minister was asked whether the province should have conducted consultations over the regulation.
"I know we consulted very broadly," she said. "As you know, all of these things go through the committee process, and everybody is welcome to come and give their presentations, so everyone would have had that opportunity to present."
Damerla said the exemptions were drafted with the advice of legal counsel, but wouldn't say what considerations were made about the onus put on business owners to ensure anyone vaporizing marijuana had a legitimate prescription.
The legal advice was that there is no scientific evidence that second-hand marijuana vapour produced from an electronic cigarette has any health effects on bystanders, Damerla said. Not providing an exemption for medical marijuana users could raise constitutional issues, she said she was told.
She wouldn't say if the second look at the exemptions would be completed before Jan. 1.
'Government has failed again'
Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown said "it sounds like they need to do a little bit more homework."
"We do want to accommodate medical needs that exist in Ontario. I'm going to be hopeful that the government will get this right," he said.
"The government has failed again." - NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh
NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh said the Liberals failed to consult properly with the public.
"The government needs to be doing their job. One, of letting people know of the decision they've made, and two, making sure that people have input on those decisions," Singh said.
"These are things we expect from the government and the government has failed again."
He said his party recognizes "medical marijuana use for very legitimate purposes," but the interests of the broader public must be considered also.