Vycki Fleming is careful with her words when she talks about marijuana.

She uses the term “medicating” when she refers to eating or smoking marijuana.

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She doesn’t have a grow op at her house, she has a medicinal garden.

It’s deliberate and Fleming not only acknowledges it, but brings the subject up.

It’s one of the first steps she’s taken to separate herself from potheads, criminals and owners of illegal marijuana growing operations.

Taking steps away from all that starts with the language that you use, she explained.

Fleming is a legal marijuana user, licensed by the government. She’s also an advocate for other medical marijuana users, working with those who are trying to access a medical marijuana licence or are having trouble with the law because of their marijuana licence.

About 10 years ago Fleming was using 17 different medications, everything from painkillers to tranquilizers.

It was costing about $30,000 for the prescriptions and thousands more in hospital stays, she said.

Five years ago she started smoking marijuana medicinally and the symptoms went away, though Fleming said smoking was only masking the symptoms, and didn’t cure anything.

That began to happen only when she began eating cannabis, she said.

Fleming has since abandoned all her prescription medication.

“I no longer take anything, not one prescription drug,” she said.

It sounds like Fleming should be happy with the way her health has turned around.

But continued run-ins with the law and struggles with Health Canada continue to frustrate her, she said.

A lot of Fleming’s frustration stems from no one seeming to know exactly what medical marijuana users need to have on hand to prove that their licensed users.

The federal government provides licensed users with two documents – a package of paperwork and a card that’s roughly the size of a driver’s licence.

Almost everyone wants to see Fleming’s card whenever she’s grilled about her marijuana usage.

But the card isn’t legal proof of anything. According to Health Canada, what’s needed is the stack of paperwork that comes with the card.

It’s a reality that seems to have fallen on deaf ears when Fleming has been approached by law enforcement officers.

Police routinely ask for the card, she said, and ignore the paperwork. They also want to know how much marijuana she’s carrying and where her “grow” is located, she said.

Fleming’s allowed to produce, or grow, her own marijuana. Her licence allows her to grow 126 plants, have 6,570 grams in storage and carry about 900 grams with her at all times.

Yes, that’s a lot of marijuana.

Fleming explains that it’s meant to be treated like any other prescription – if you are allowed to carry 900 grams worth of Percocets or any other prescription with you, the same rule applies for marijuana.

“But I would never carry that amount on me,” Fleming said. “I would worry about getting robbed.”

According to Health Canada, the amount a user is allowed to possess is set by an individual user and his or her physician. The physician must approve the amount before assisting a patient with an application to become a licensed user.

Fleming smokes about 30 grams a day, which she rolls into joints and keeps in a cigarette package.

She’s also allowed to medicate anywhere she likes, whether it’s in the privacy of her own home or walking down George St.

Health Canada advises users not to smoke in public places, or expose people to second-hand marijuana smoke. But there’s no law prohibiting it.

The only caveat Health Canada requires is that users adhere to any municipal smoking bylaws that are in place.

It’s a little known fact that has put Fleming in conflict with local police.

In July Fleming was at a downtown bar when she stepped outside to medicate.

She wasn’t drinking, she said, and moved about a block down the street to smoke her joint.

The bouncer at the bar refused to let her back in, she said, and called the police several times to complain.

That led to an altercation with two officers who showed up to answer the call, she said.

Fleming said she was detained for almost three hours while she tried to answer police questions and verify her status as a legal user.

In October 2010 Fleming had a run-in with OPP officers from the Peterborough County detachment at the Simcoe St. courthouse.

Fleming was there to drop off documents for a friend and said she medicated on the way to the courthouse.

The aroma of freshly burned marijuana was clinging to her when she entered the courthouse.

She was quickly pointed out to police. Fleming said two officers followed her to her car and insisted that she provide them with her card.

Fleming said she showed them her paperwork required to possess and smoke marijuana legally.

“Right there, it should have ended.”

But police persisted, she said, lecturing her for 15 minutes and implying that she was mentally ill.

Fleming has since complained about the altercation. An investigation by the OPP’s professional standards bureau found that the officers committed no wrong-doing.

Fleming said there’s not any legislation in place to protect medical marijuana users. Little work has been done to educate other agencies, like law enforcement, probation and parole about the rights of medical marijuana users, she said.

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City police Insp. Ted Boynton acknowledged that the emergence of medical marijuana, and licenced users, has been a challenge for police.

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Boynton said police aren’t notified whenever someone obtains a licence, and most medical marijuana users will never come to the attention of the police.

But there are users who smoke anywhere, he said, or roll joints in public places where everyone can see.

Boynton acknowledged that licensed users have a right to do that. But it often results in a call to police, he said, by a concerned resident who has no way of knowing that the smoker is licenced.

Officers have to respond to that call, he said, and then must take steps to insure the user is licensed.

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That a user can possess several pounds of marijuana at any given time is also a concern, he said.

It opens the door for street-level robberies and home invasions, he said, and can be a concern for neighbours.

Boynton suggested that it would be helpful for police if medical users contacted them and informed them of their licence.

That’s something Fleming has no intention of doing. She frequently states that any of that information is protected under the Privacy Act.

Health Canada states that it can only provide limited information about a medical marijuana user, namely information that states whether a user is within the confines of the law or not.

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News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Author: Sarah Deeth, Examiner Police Writer
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Copyright: 2011 Osprey Media Group Inc
Website: Peterborough Examiner – Ontario, CA