Ontario’s privacy watchdog investigating Toronto pot dispensary
An anonymous source sent the Star a collection of WeeMedical forms detailing the personal information of 14 medical marijuana users.
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Ontario’s privacy watchdog says it is investigating a Toronto marijuana dispensary following a complaint about mishandled customer information.
“The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario … received an anonymous complaint regarding documents that appear to be the property of WeeMedical Dispensary Society, that were allegedly left unsecured, curbside, in a transparent recycling bag,” wrote IPC registrar Suzanne Brocklehurst in a letter to the Star. “The documents contained the personal information of several individuals.”
In a subsequent interview, Brocklehurst said the IPC was “looking into” WeeMedical, a B.C. based chain with three franchise locations in Toronto.
In early November, an anonymous source sent The Star a collection of WeeMedical forms detailing the names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, health problems and marijuana habits of 14 medical marijuana users.
The forms were accompanied by a letter saying the source found them in a transparent bag on the curb outside the WeeMedical dispensary on Queen St. west of Spadina Ave.
IPC spokesperson Trell Huether confirmed that the privacy commissioner’s investigation concerned the same WeeMedical location.
Angus MacAskill, a spokesperson in WeeMedical Dispensary Society’s corporate office in B.C., has previously told the Star that patient information is kept in a secure location and would not be left on a curb.
“There was a disgruntled employee that left and stole a variety of medicine and information from our company while he was being let go,” MacAskill said in an email to the Star.
MacAskill said WeeMedical filed a police report over the alleged document theft. He would not reveal the name of the disgruntled employee.
Toronto police were unable to confirm whether WeeMedical filed a police report.
The only legal providers of medical marijuana in the country are those licensed by Health Canada. Storefront dispensaries are illegal under current Canadian law, said City of Toronto spokesperson Tammy Robbinson.
The WeeMedical franchise locations on Eglinton Ave. W., near Dufferin St., and on St. Clair W., near Bathurst St., were raided by Toronto police in May, during a city-wide sweep of illegal dispensaries.
The legality or illegality of WeeMedical’s business has no bearing on the IPC’s investigation, said privacy commissioner spokesperson Trell Huether.
“From our perspective, they’re not a business, they’re a health information custodian, because they’re handling health records,” said Huether.
“We have to consider it personal health information in the same way (we would for) a pharmacy or pharmacist.”
Huether said WeeMedical’s case would fall under provincial legislation concerning the privacy of health information, known as the Personal Health Information Protection Act.
If the IPC determines that breaches of privacy have occurred it can, under the jurisdiction of PHIPA, “issue orders or recommendations and, in appropriate cases, we may refer the matter to the attorney general for prosecution,” according to a written statement sent to the Star by Huether.
The Star contacted all 14 WeeMedical customers whose information was contained in the forms.
Two said they felt their privacy had been violated; two said they did not care. The rest declined, or were unavailable, to comment.