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Smoking for good health

Medical marijuana advocate applauds Supreme Court decision; Oshawa "a little ahead of the curve" on the issue


Medical marijuana advocate and chair of Oshawa’s medical marijuana working group Marko Ivancicevic smokes a joint at his Pickering home. Ivancicevic says Oshawa is ahead of many other municipalities on the issue of medical marijuana, but there is still more work to be done.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Marko Ivancicevic isn’t afraid to admit that he’s a regular marijuana smoker. Whether the former Oshawa resident is smoking in the garage of his new Pickering home or in public, Ivancicevic isn’t bashful of smoking an illegal substance.

Except for him, the substance isn’t illegal – he has a prescription.

Ivancicevic, who has been smoking marijuana medically for the past 12 years, has become an advocate for making the practice more acceptable and accessible, something he has learned the benefits of after switching from prescription drugs to marijuana.

“For me, I have several different medical conditions for which I’ve had operations over the years. So for me, I was taking things like Percocet, morphine, codeine, Demeral and a whole slew of other highly addictive pharmaceuticals. For myself, it didn’t really allow me to have a quality of life,” Ivancicevic tells The Oshawa Express. “When I was consuming those kinds of medications, it had such an overbearing effect on me that it didn’t allow me to, let’s say, be a part of the community as I am now. (The pills) enabled me to stay home a lot more, it allowed me really not be a part of the community at all. So when I transitioned into using marijuana more therapeutically, if you will, I was able to get off of those other narcotic medications and I was able to increase the enjoyment and quality of my life.”

Now the chair of the medical marijuana working group for the city’s accessibility advisory committee, Ivancicevic works to keep city council afloat on the latest news about medical marijuana, the latest of which came in a Supreme Court decision earlier this month.

Edibles now legal

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously found that edibles – ways of ingesting medical marijuana through ways other than smoking, such as candies and oils – was now legal.

The court’s decision strikes down sections 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, which prohibits the possession and sale of non-dried forms of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“It’s a very exciting decision for a lot of medical marijuana patients in Canada. I think in retrospect, looking back on how the legality on edibles…or other forms of being able to use medical marijuana was kind of out of touch considering how a lot of things have been going on down south,” Ivancicevic tells The Oshawa Express, referencing recent moves by some American states to make medical and, in some cases, recreational marijuana more accessible. “So I think for us, as patients, it’s a very glorious decision for us to be able to understand that we no longer have to worry about being seen as criminals under the eyes of the law for consuming marijuana in other forms.”

The Supreme Court case stems from the 2009 arrest of Owen Smith, who worked as a baker for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, when he was found with more than 200 cookies and 26 jars of liquid infused with cannabis. Smith argued the law under which he was arrested was unconstitutional, something which a court in British Columbia agreed. His case was later appealed by the federal government, taking the case to the Supreme Court. This latest decision by the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision.

Rona Ambrose, the federal health minister, slammed the court’s decision, saying that “this expansion of a pre-existing court-imposed program to now include cookies and candies makes marijuana more attractive and accessible to youth and reflects Justin Trudeau’s campaign to legalize and normalize marijuana” in a prepared statement.

Ivancicevic says opposition such as this from the ruling Conservative Party is hardly a surprise.

“At the end of the day, the Conservative’s health minister will always have something negative to say about medical marijuana. She’s been quoted in the past many a time for saying that it has no medicinal value as it’s not currently regulated in the sense that other drugs are,” he says. “But at the end of the day, it’s another favourable court decision for us, it’s an opportunity for people to learn about how medical marijuana can be used in different ways. I think this will also open a greater discussion over the fact that people are starting to learn more about its medicinal values and how it can be applied other than smoked.”

Smoking up in Oshawa

Ivancicevic, outside of being the chair for the working group on medical marijuana, works on advocating the use of the drug for therapeutic purposes, something he says is becoming more prevalent in today’s society.

“As time goes, we see the number of people in Canada that are legal to use marijuana increase. The numbers will continue to increase as the years go on,” he says. “It also has to do with the fact that doctors are becoming a little bit more in tune with the medicinal benefits of marijuana so they’re now trying it as an alternative option for many people who have used pharmaceuticals over the years.”

Closer to home, Ivancicevic says Oshawa has shown itself to be ahead of many other places in Canada on the issue, but that there is still more that can be done.

“There’s been a lot of progress. I’d say they’re a little ahead of the curve, but there are municipalities that are more supportive of the idea that medical marijuana can create jobs for the municipality,” he says, later mentioning an application earlier this year for the establishment of a growing facility for medical marijuana in Oshawa. “I’d say as a council, they’ve made a lot of good strides, especially with the (medical marijuana) education and training session (in March). That wouldn’t have happened four years ago.”