A Toronto man with a disability is challenging the Ontario government to change the system so cannabis is legally available and affordable
In the rush to make cannabis accessible through legal retailers, a disabled Toronto man whose medical conditions sometime require urgent, on-demand treatment charges that Ontario forgot to make the plant accessible to many in need.
Speaking at a press conference in early May, 58-year-old Ken Harrower had some harsh words for Ontario’s government, publicly challenging the attorney general, the Office of the Premier and the Toronto Police Service (TPS), which has renewed its crackdown on illegal pot shops and compassion clubs.
Harrower reiterated points made in his complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) in January, arguing the provincial cannabis retail system “is arbitrary, flawed and discriminatory against people with disabilities and limited financial means.” Harrower says he’s yet to receive a response from provincial authorities or the TPS.
“The TPS is named in the application because it is tasked with enforcing the provincial
legislation, and has done so in a manner that caused Harrower serious harm because his access was infringed and his human dignity was insulted,” contends cannabis attorney and advocate Jack Lloyd, who’s working with Harrower on the challenge.
Access, cost, availability major reasons for challenge
Harrower lives with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita—a congenital joint contracture condition—and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—characterized by obstruction of air flow and increasing breathlessness, making him unable to smoke—and uses a wheelchair to get around. Calling the system flawed and unreasonable in his filing, he says cannabis is a medical resource that has grown scarce for him as the legal industry struggles to find its footing. As it stands, he says cannabis retail locations are limited, products are expensive and the range of products is insufficient and don’t suit his medical needs.
Harrower is hoping his efforts will convince the HRTO to issue a “stay of enforcement” that allows the province to get up to speed with providing access to cannabis—in effect, temporarily halting the widespread shutdown of unlicensed dispensaries he argues have served him better than the current legal market.
“I’ve been using cannabis on and off for at least 20 years now,” says Harrower, whose symptoms are eased by use of the plant. Cannabis products were used, Lloyd notes, when Harrower could afford to do so, and when it was more easily accessible. “This is a matter of necessity, not preference for me,” Harrower says.