City of Calgary withdraws charges after medical marijuana user challenges bylaw tickets
Woman's medical marijuana use landed her several tickets, which were withdrawn after vague bylaw language proved weak for court battle
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Through the smoke and mirrors of Calgary’s Bylaw, one medical marijuana user is celebrating a small victory.
Ticketed for her medicinal marijuana use in a Calgary Transit bus shelter, Lisa “Mamakind” Kirkman was prepared to challenge her fines, over $1,500 in infractions, as a Charter of Rights and Freedoms case. But after a year of fighting the write-ups, charges against her were withdrawn on Wednesday, according to her lawyer, because of a vague bylaw.
“The charges were withdrawn,” said Student-at-Law Elizabeth Weisenburger. “Essentially the wording of the bylaw mostly pertained to burning pipe tobacco…it was vague as to whether it included cannabis smoke.”
Kirkman said she was charged several times within the span of a few weeks. Once with “molesting the comfort of reasonable persons,” and “smoking on transit property.”
“It’s a little bit of mixed feelings,” said Kirkman. “It’s wonderful that at least I’m getting an acknowledgement. There’s something wrong here if I’m continuing to get these tickets and city employees don’t know what the actual law is…however, if it had gone to court it would have set precedent everywhere, but it would also have chucked all the smoking bylaws.”
Given the day, and concentration of the marijuana she’s using, Kirkman has to medicate several times for her various ailments; sometimes as much as every 15 minutes. For her, the choice is to sit in pain, or light up. And in some instances she has to do so in a bus shelter – if the weather is bad.
After the proceeding, city lawyer Ola Malik, walked from the court room to the cafeteria area, where Kirkman powered up her volcano vaporizer to show him how she medicates. He’d never seen one before.
“From my perspective, the constitutional issue comes down to recognizing that people who have been issued with a license have a right to treat their condition with medical marijuana we don't want to impede this right,” said Malik. “But this right must also be balanced with the rights of the public to be free from unwanted nuisance such as having to deal with the nuisance aspect of second hand smoke.”
Kirkman’s medical use is for various serious ailments, all of which have been diagnosed – but she stresses her reasons for using the drug are between her and her doctor.
“People forget this is a medicine that’s not very easy to get,” Kirkman said. She can’t eat the cannabis, she doesn’t want to stay at home all day to medicate and affordability often has her turning to the old fashioned bud.
“It’s not the city’s job to decide whether or not medical marijuana is a good thing,” Kirkman said. “They need to accommodate my needs and recognize I’m someone with a disability that needs a particular type of therapy.”