Article by Selwyn Pieters Law, News Wire
On Wednesday, May 1, 2019 – exactly one month after cannabis retailers were instructed to open their doors in Ontario – Ken Harrower, a wheelchair-bound disabled man from Toronto with several medical conditions, held a press conference regarding his Human Rights challenge against The Attorney General of Ontario, The Office of the Premier of Ontario and The Toronto Police Service. In his challenge, Ken cites that the current cannabis retail system launched by the Government of Ontario – the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) – is arbitrary, flawed and discriminatory against people with disabilities and limited financial means.
Ken suffers from Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a congenital joint contracture condition, as well as several other conditions including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and Celiac Disease. In addition to his disabilities and illnesses, for which he needs immediate and urgent relief of his symptoms, Ken has limited funds making the OCS system unreasonable and flawed.
As a result of his COPD condition, Ken is unable to smoke cannabis and must either eat gluten-free cannabis in edible form or eat raw cannabis itself. Given his disabilities, he is unable to work full-time, making him reliant on the Ontario Disability Support Program where he receives very limited funds that do not adequately cover his day-to-day expenses. Ken often must panhandle on the streets of Toronto to make ends meet.
“The Ontario Cannabis Store system is flawed – and completely discriminates against people with disabilities and limited financial means like myself,” says Ken Harrower, a disabled man from Ontario with several medical conditions. “This is a matter of necessity, not preference for me. Given changes to Ontario’s system for accessing cannabis, I have had to resort to buying it from local unlicensed retailers. I am unable to access regulated products which would help me to alleviate my symptoms. I have been to the other newly-created retailers in Toronto and they turned me away. In addition, the OCS cannot provide me with urgent, on-demand access and it is far too expensive for me. I am here today to help others facing a similar situation.”
Ken believes the OCS system is flawed for those in his position because:
- Purchases are reserved for those with available credit
- Those with limited financial means are not able to purchase in large quantities – making purchases in small batches cost-prohibitive
- With each $5 purchase comes a $5 + HST shipping charge – effectively doubling his cost to order online compared to others who may be able to afford larger purchases
- A documented supply shortage crisis has further limited his access
- A restricted phased approach for the roll-out of retail outlets as outlined by Minster Fedeli on Dec 13th, 2018 has further restricted Ken’s access to cannabis
- Dean French’s public call to action to ‘place people in handcuffs and put them on television,’ has further restricted Ken’s access to cannabis
Ontario has essentially created an arbitrary framework – a lottery for any interested party – for cannabis retail which has further promoted unreasonable and undignified access.
The current cannabis retailers in Toronto did not meet Ken’s needs because:
- He was denied access at both Ameri and The Hunny Pot
- They do not have the products that Ken requires
- These locations are not open on holidays which does not work for Ken as he needs cannabis on an urgent and on-demand basis
- They are too far from where he lives and he cannot reasonably travel to them – he spent $55 and 3 hours of his time to discover this
- Current licensed retailers are not wheelchair accessible
Representing Ken is notable Toronto-based lawyer and civil rights activist, Selwyn Pieters.
“We are here today to help medical cannabis users like Ken, a disabled man from Toronto, get the attention he deserves while addressing the flaws created by the OCS retail system,” says Selwyn Pieters, lawyer for Ken Harrower. “The poorly planned phased approach for the roll-out of retail cannabis outlets as outlined by the Ontario government has neglected to take into account the needs of all Canadians – especially those who are disabled and those with limited financial means – and we hope Ken’s Human Rights case helps bring much-needed change to this flawed and undignified system.”
Also participating in the legal action is cannabis legalization activist and prominent cannabis lawyer, Jack Lloyd.
“We have to be very cautious that the rights of medical cannabis patients are not forgotten in the midst of the emergent recreational cannabis industry,” says Jack Lloyd. “People like Ken have a right to access their medicine in a dignified and reasonable manner. The current recreational and medical cannabis models do not provide many individuals like Mr. Harrower with sufficient access to their medicine. In effect, the legal regime creates a situation where Ken is prohibited from accessing cannabis. It goes without saying that criminalizing people like Ken, or the compassionate people who supply him with his medical cannabis at a time when no functional access exists, is an insult to his dignity as a human being. We are hopeful that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario appreciates this serious issue and condemns government for continuing its failed policy of prohibition after Canadians en masse voted to legalize this harmless substance.”
Ken Harrower is on a mission to help those facing similar challenges with Ontario’s new cannabis retailing system.
Ken Harrower, a wheelchair-bound disabled man from Toronto with several medical conditions, has launched a Human Rights challenge against The Attorney General of Ontario, The Office of the Premier of Ontario and The Toronto Police Service.
His challenge cites that the current cannabis retail system launched by the Government of Ontario – the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) – is arbitrary, flawed and discriminatory against people with disabilities and limited financial means.
As a result of his COPD condition, Ken is unable to smoke cannabis and must either eat gluten-free cannabis in edible form or eat raw cannabis itself. Due to significant flaws with the OCS system and the high prices associated with purchases, Ken has had to resort to buying from unlicensed retailers.
Although Ken tried to purchase through the current cannabis retailers in Toronto, they turned him down. For Ken, having on-demand, reasonably priced access to cannabis is a matter of necessity not preference.
Ken Harrower is on a mission to fix this issue and help those facing similar challenges with Ontario’s new cannabis retailing system.