Saskatchewan

Medical cannabis user in a tight spot following recreational legalization

While some celebrate the legalization of cannabis, one medical user in Regina is concerned about the rules around how he can medicate.

Regina man's landlord put out no smoking reminder on legalization day

Ken Reban was prescribed medical cannabis three-and-a-half years ago. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

While some celebrate the legalization of cannabis, one medical user in Regina is concerned about the rules around how he can medicate.

Ken Reban was prescribed medicinal cannabis three-and-a half-years ago for chronic pain and sleep apnea. He said it also benefits his mental wellbeing.

Guy Cudmore issued this letter to all tenants in his building as a reminder of the no smoking policy in the building he owns on Oct. 17. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

His landlord issued notices to tenants on Oct. 17 stating they are not allowed to smoke cannabis in their rental units.

The landlord had also previously told Reban he was not allowed to use his medicine inside.

In order to accommodate the rules, he started smoking in an alley across the street from his apartment. He said he sometimes needs to use cannabis late at night and he can't rely on friends to open their doors to him all hours of the night.

Reban said he contacted the Ministry of Justice and his local MLA about whether he would be allowed to continue doing so once legalization of recreational cannabis took effect. He said neither told him he would be exempt from rules against smoking in public.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice told CBC that people with valid cannabis prescriptions are exempt from such charges.

Guy Cudmore, Reban's landlord, said the no smoking policy has been in place for 18 years in the apartment building. He said the policy was put in place after a cigarette fire caused extensive damage to the building's third floor.

"Whether it's cannabis, or cigarettes, or glass clippings, or whatever it is, there is a no smoking policy," Cudmore said. "We're doing this for the safety of all the tenants here."

Cudmore said he can empathize with Reban's situation, but ultimately, there are numerous other tenants Cudmore is also responsible for.

"I'm not saying he can't use edibles or whatever else there is he can use, it's just that the building continues to be a non-smoking building," Cudmore said.

No other medical options available

Reban said he is sensitive to prescription drugs like morphine that could help his conditions. He's also apprehensive to use opioid based medications due to their possible side effects.

Reban's nephew died two years ago after overdosing on hydromorphone he was prescribed following a hospital visit.

Reban says he showed his landlord his medicinal cannabis prescription letter to prove he requires the plant as medicine. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Reban said switching to other cannabis options like edibles, which are available to medicinal cannabis patients, would be too costly, as he is on a fixed income. He estimated using edibles to medicate would cost him about $2,000 a month.

Costs aside, Reban said edibles do not remedy his pain as quick as smoking cannabis.

"It takes about an hour and a half for [edibles] to work whereas when you smoke cannabis, it takes about five minutes," Reban said

Alternative living arrangements being considered

Reban is now considering moving but said his options are limited.

Anything from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation is off the table thanks to a blanket ban on smoking, even for medicinal cannabis users.

"That takes another card out of my deck. I'm running out of cards," Reban said.

Some private rental companies in Regina have also placed an outright ban on smoking cannabis.

Reban said he would start approaching potential landlords with questions about using his medicine on their property while looking for a new place to live.

Reban said he is also looking into filing a complaint with the provincial human rights commission.

Ministry of Justice stands behind Residential Tenancies Amendments Act

In an email to CBC News, the provincial Ministry of Justice deferred to the Residential Tenancies Amendments Act of 2017. The act states landlords are allowed to set their own rules about cannabis use on their property.

It is up to landlords to decide how to handle someone who violates their rental agreement.

Reban says smoking cannabis is the most efficient way to cope with sudden bursts of pain and that edibles are too slow and expensive. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

"While the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) recommends landlords and tenants try to work out issues themselves, the ORT is available to adjudicate instances where renters or landlords violate the rental agreement," the email from the ministry said.

Instances brought before the ORT involving medicinal cannabis would be handled on a case-by-case basis, according to the email.

A Regina Police Service spokesperson said someone smoking medicinal cannabis in a public space would be required to provide the appropriate documentation to police if asked by an officer while they were medicating. As long as that person is able to provide the proper documentation and they were not in a car, they would not be ticketed.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Reban would be subject to a $200 fine if caught smoking cannabis in a public place. According to the Ministry of Justice, people with valid cannabis prescriptions are exempt from such charges.
    Oct 19, 2018 9:08 AM CT

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