News / Calgary

Student using medicinal marijuana vaporizer inside Calgary high school

Smoking marijuana on school property would land most high schoolers in the principal's office, but Noah Kirkman is actually encouraged to head there and ingest the drug.

The 15-year-old Western Canada High School student is a licensed medicinal marijuana user after finding the drug far more effective than prescription offerings for treating Tourette Syndrome and attention-deficit disorder.

"It doesn't have any withdrawal effects and I can't (overdose) on it," explained the confident student, who has aspirations of practicing photojournalism someday. "It helps me keep calm, it helps me keep focused."

Kirkman received his licence in September and he and mother Lisa say they proactively approached Calgary Board of Education administrators to discuss terms on how the teen could ingest his medicine on school property.

At first, it was thought Noah could use his "one-hitter," which looks like a cigarette, out front of the school. But when it became too cold it was agreed he could pop by the vice-principal's office and use his marijuana vaporizer three times a day, before class, after class and over the lunch-hour.

Noah's device is no bigger than a walkie-talkie and he simply flicks a switch that heats his medicine to 367-degrees fahrenheit.

The CBE would not confirm the Kirkman family's account citing privacy concerns and said it doesn't have information to indicate whether other students have been granted similar concessions to use marijuana on school property. But Lisa and Noah were interviewed separately to determine whether their accounts check out and Metro was provided with proof of the youngster's medicinal marijuana licence.

Lisa is also a licensed marijuana user and no stranger to generating headlines for her use of the drug. In 2011, she and three others likely made Canadian aviation history when they ingested marijuana using a vaporizer aboard a WestJet flight bound for Toronto.

A few weeks after Metro wrote the story about the group's so-called "vaping" at 30,000 feet, WestJet barred use of the device in-flight amid fears of the heat it generates.

But Keith Fagin, head of Calgary 420 Cannabis Community, who joined Kirkman on the flight and ingested marijuana alongside wife Debbie, said it's time for all public bodies to develop policies around allowing the drug to be used on their properties.

"It's smokeless . . . it's healthy to use," he said, later adding, "When we were on that flight, we didn't have a single complaint from another passenger about odor or anything like that."

But Calgary's own police Chief Rick Hanson has said in recent weeks he fears the fallout of what he perceives as a push by the federal government to legalize marijuana. He called for better regulations surrounding when and where licensed users can ingest the drug.

"Let's say you're prescribed three grams of marijuana," Hanson said at the time. "I've been told that's 15 joints. If you need 15 joints to get through the day, do you want that guy in your office? Smoking up in your office once an hour?"

Noah, meanwhile, said he welcomes curious questions from friends and classroom peers about his marijuana use, adding he never has more than a few grams on him at any given time.

"Usually, I'm not that discreet about it," he said. "My friends are very accepting of it, I've dealt with no discrimination or anything like that."

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