Tammy Gadsby credits medical marijuana for ending her use of serious pharmaceuticals that included a tranquilizer and an opioid.
With marijuana, the 60-year-old Maple Ridge resident said she has been able to better manage her fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety and PTSD than with any other drugs she has tried. Inhaling marijuana produces nearly immediate relief and also helps keep up her appetite, she said.
But smoking the drug now has Gadsby afoul of a recently passed strata bylaw in her condominium development that she said prohibits any smoking or vaping of any substance anywhere on the property. Many strata councils around B.C. have adopted similar bylaws late last year in anticipation of the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Gadsby said her strata has not granted her an exception to the rule, even though she says she holds a family physician-provided prescription and has been a medical marijuana user since 2015. And for Gadsby, it’s a serious enough matter that she said she plans to take it to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
“I gave up three prescription medications and just use medical cannabis now,” Gadsby said. “This is the best thing I’ve ever found to deal with all the different issues that I do deal with.”
Grant Inglis, the head of the strata council, said the council — through its lawyer — had requested additional information from Gadsby so that it could make a fair and informed decision about her request for an exemption from the bylaw on medical grounds. To date that information had not been received, he said.
Earlier this month, Eric Mollema, a lawyer representing the strata, sent a letter to a lawyer for Gadsby stating that the strata corporation was obliged to consider exempting her from the bylaw, but that it did require documents first.
That included written confirmation from a board-certified medical practitioner that Gadsby had a marijuana prescription and that detailed her medical conditions, explained why “traditional medicines” are contraindicative to those conditions and stated why smoking marijuana is the preferred dosing method.
Mollema said he could not comment on the ongoing matter.
For Gadsby, asking for that extent of personal medical information goes too far.
“It goes to a strata. These people are not a medical panel by any means … they are individuals that live in the strata. And you want me to provide you with all of my medical background?”
Paul Mendes, a lawyer who mainly represents strata corporations but who has also represented individual owners, said he could not speak to the specifics of the case. But he said conflicts over no-smoking bylaws can turn into human rights issues.
“For this to be a human rights issue, the owner has to establish that she has a disability. And once she satisfies the strata that she has a disability, the strata then has a duty to accommodate her disability to the point of an undue hardship on the strata.”
In the case of marijuana smoking, the main problem tends to be smell, Mendes said. One thing the strata can consider in such cases is asking an owner to consider vaping or taking edibles rather than smoking combustibles. But if a strata takes the position that there is no way to accommodate, “then it is really a human rights matter,” he said.
What the Human Rights Tribunal would look at is whether the bylaw adversely affects the property owner’s disability. If they have evidence they use medical marijuana for that disability, it would be hard to argue that a zero tolerance policy does not adversely affect them, Mendes said.
“It’s not a slam dunk for either side on this. It’s really going to depend on the evidence,” he said.
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