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Pot-smoking Mountie can’t smoke publicly in uniform: RCMP

Cpl. Ron Francis legally smokes marijuana daily while on duty to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

By Evan Dyer, CBC News Posted: Nov 28, 2013 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 28, 2013 3:48 PM ET

Mountie can't smoke pot in uniform in public

Mountie can’t smoke pot in uniform in public 2:20

RAW Mountie on PTSD and medical marijuana

RAW Mountie on PTSD and medical marijuana 3:10

RAW RCMP on marijuana use on the force 2:19

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer with a medical marijuana prescription thinks he should be able to smoke the drug while in uniform, but the RCMP says he can’t smoke marijuana while in red serge or while wearing his regular working uniform.

Cpl. Ronald Francis serves with J Division in New Brunswick, and received a prescription for medical-grade marijuana on Nov. 4.

‘There’s no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking marijuana. There’s no policy in the RCMP that says I cannot smoke in public. I have the right to smoke it in my red serge.’-Cpl. Ronald Francis

Francis told CBC News marijuana has helped him to calm down and reduces his PTSD symptoms. His prescription allows for three grams a day, which he estimates to be nine to 15 joints, though he said he doesn’t typically smoke that much.

“I get up in the morning, have my coffee and the marijuana. I go at lunchtime, have a marijuana joint, and then again in the evening. That would be my medical regime. But that may change with my tolerance to THC. It may take two joints in the morning, I don’t know,” said Francis.

“I’m just building up my immunity to THC levels, if I was to smoke two I’d probably get stoned to the point that I’m just totally relaxed. I’m still functional. But your nervous system is relaxed, and that makes a big difference,” he said.

RCMP Cpl. Ronald Francis

Cpl. Francis said his choice to switch to medical marijuana was a health decision. (CBC)

Francis, who is currently assigned to administrative duties, said smoking marijuana has no negative effect on his ability to be a police officer and that he intends to continue smoking on the job.

“There’s no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking marijuana. There’s no policy in the RCMP that says I cannot smoke in public. I have the right to smoke it in my red serge.”

RCMP says officers ‘should not be in red serge’ while smoking marijuana

But while the RCMP accepts that Francis’s prescription gives him the right to consume marijuana, the force takes issue with members smoking in public or in uniform.

“Definitely a member that has been prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge taking his medication,” said RCMP assistant commissioner Gilles Moreau. “It would not be advisable for that member, it would not portray the right message to the general public, it’s definitely not something we would support or condone.”

Moreau said the RCMP has a duty to accommodate members’ medical needs, but also has to consider the effect on other members and on public perceptions.

“Because this is relatively new for active members of the RCMP, we are looking at the internal policies to see, how do we set it up? To say, OK, if somebody is prescribed medical marijuana and they have to take it two or three times a day and have to take it at work, where is this going to take place? If it takes place outside, it has to respect the individual but also their co-workers, and it has to respect the Canadian population at large by taking it in a respectful way.”

The RCMP has the right to challenge medical treatments it considers inappropriate, and to seek a second medical opinion, Moreau said, adding that RCMP will evaluate any member who obtains a medical marijuana prescription.

If they are found to be impaired in judgment or motor skills, the RCMP will place limits on the police functions they’re permitted to perform, he said.

Turned to marijuana after trying anti-depressants

Francis said he experienced stress on the job early in his career, while serving the First Nation in Davis Inlet and in his own community of Kingsclear First Nation. He began to seek treatment for mental distress eight years ago.

At first, his doctors prescribed anti-depressants, but he did not feel any significant improvement.

“I started to self-medicate with alcohol. And I said no, this is not me. Why am I doing this? And I was going through treatment for PTSD at the time, and the RCMP did provide treatment, and I thank the RCMP for that.”

But Francis began to read about alternative treatments, including marijuana, and he eventually left the doctor he was seeing at the occupational stress injury clinic. He switched to a different doctor, who gave him the marijuana prescription.

“When I explored it as a treatment for my PTSD, I had to really make a moral decision about it. Because the RCMP and law enforcement, they seem so anti-marijuana, and that’s a hard thing to overcome, so I had to make that decision for my own health. It wasn’t based on my career or anything.

“It was for my own health. In doing that I realized that I have to come first. The organization doesn’t come first, Ron Francis comes first. For my own health. And I’m glad I did that,” he said.



Cpl. Ron Francis turns in RCMP serge after pot controversy

WARNING: Video contains graphic language

CBC News  Posted: Nov 29, 2013 10:43 AM AT Last Updated: Nov 29, 2013 6:12 PM AT

RAW: Uniform seizure (Strong language)

RAW: Uniform seizure (Strong language) 5:31


‘It means everything’ corporal says of RCMP serge 2:00

RCMP seize officer’s uniform for smoking medical marijuana 11:53

The New Brunswick Mountie at the centre of a debate about smoking medicinal marijuana while wearing his police uniform turned over his formal RCMP red serge Friday.

Cpl. Ron Francis arrived at J Division headquarters in Fredericton as promised to hand over his dress uniform at noon.

Cpl. Ron FrancisCpl. Ron Francis hands over his RCMP dress uniform Friday at J Division headquarters in Fredericton. (CBC)

RCMP officers had seized Francis’s other uniforms and related apparel at his home Thursday night. Francis did not have his dress uniform at his home and said he would turn it over Friday.

Francis was ordered to turn the items in after he was photographed and videoed smoking marijuana in his uniform.

Francis, who is a member of the Maliseet First Nation, held an eagle feather in one hand throughout his visit to headquarters. Before handing over his dress uniform, Francis removed his medal for 20 years of exemplary service to the RCMP with shaking hands.

“It’s my medal,” a sobbing Francis said to reporters minutes later.

“They can have their uniform. This is my medal,” he said. “I earned this. I earned it with my blood, my sweat, my tears.

“I have not one flaw on my service record,” said Francis. “My only flaw is I stuck up for the Canadian people.

“And I’d stick up for this country because the government doesn’t do anything for them.”

Pot helps with PTSD

The 21-year veteran of the RCMP has a prescription for medical marijuana to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder that he says is a result of his work. Francis believes he should be able to smoke medicinal marijuana while in uniform.

Francis still has his RCMP badge and remains a Mountie, but is on medical leave.

He was upset when fellow RCMP officers arrived at his home Thursday evening to collect his uniforms and gear.

The scene was captured on video by his cousin, and Francis provided a copy of it to CBC News. It contains strong language.

Maliseet elder Imelda Perley went to the station with Francis.

“I’m hoping he will keep his eagle feather, because that’s going to be his elder. It’s going to be his strength to know that there’s a purpose waiting for him and once he gets over his physical part that’s giving him struggles today, that he will be able to wear proudly the serge again, hopefully,” she said.

Growing problem

Adam Greenblatt, executive director of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, said this sort of situation will increase as medical marijuana becomes more common.

“It does speak to this larger issue of accommodating the need for medical cannabis and accommodating the patients who use it,” he said.

He said medical marijuana can legally be smoked or taken through vaporizers, but vaporizers can be too expensive for some people.

“Non-smoking alternatives such as cannabis-infused food products like cookies and tinctures and hashish products, these are illegal according to Health Canada,” he said. “Patients are essentially being forced to smoke this medicine by the government’s own regulations.”

He said the Francis’s case is bringing important issues to light and he hopes a good resolution is reached.


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