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Ontario to allow use of medical marijuana in public places

Last Updated Nov 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm EDT

Instead of popping two aspirins, you can now light up a joint at work – if you have a medical marijuana prescription.

Medical marijuana users with a doctor’s prescription are exempt from the laws that prohibit cigarette smoking and e-cigarette vaping in most public places in Ontario, Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dipika Damerla, explained on Wednesday.

“The law allows for an exemption because someone needs it for a medical purpose … It’s about negotiating. It’s about balancing the rights,” she said.

But Damerla said the legislation that allows for the exemption also permits business owners and employers to “override the exemption.”

“As an employer and a restaurant owner, you can say that there is no vaping, no smoking of medical marijuana,” she said.

CityNews has learned that the exemption doesn’t apply to establishes with liquor licences.

There was some confusion over whether the exemption applied only to vaping, and not smoking, but Damerla made it clear that both are permitted with a doctor’s approval.

“They are consistent with each other,” she said.

Nov. 26 story update: Ontario reconsidering new medical marijuana exemptions

Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown expressed concerns that the new provincial rules would contradict with respective municipal guidelines.

“The conversation they should have is with municipalities to make sure that the provincial regulations are in line with what municipalities have already established,” he said. “And in some cases they have their own regulations that prohibit smoking in places like parks.”

When asked about concerns that marijuana could be smoked in the presence of children, Brown said he didn’t think there was going to be “an overwhelming amount of people in Ontario running out to parks to have their medical marijuana.”

Toronto Public Health, which has taken a hard stance on cigarette smoking, and has called for e-cigarette and hookah bans, refused to comment when reached by CityNews.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party would take a hard look at the rules surrounding medical marijuana smoking and vaping.

“We know that Health Canada has issued some warnings about exposure of young people to the smoke and vapor of medical marijuana and that’s something we have to keep in mind,” she said.

When asked how she would react if someone lit up a joint while she was enjoying dinner, she quipped, “I’ll probably eat more.”

Medical marijuana advocates applauded the exemptions.

In a release, Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) stated: “This is another important milestone in the recognition of the legitimacy of the use of cannabis as a medicine. Ontario has taken a huge step forward by exempting medical cannabis patients and their use of vaporizers.”