|Vapes on a plane! Lisa Mamakind was told that as long as patients aren't using the devices during the times when passengers aren't allowed to use electronics, she was free to medicate as needed.|
"At the end of May 2011, as a license-holder, I took it up myself to clear up any ambiguities in regard to where and when I'm able to medicate," Mamakind writes in Cannabis Culture. "Up until this point, we could only speculate as to what exactly were the policies of the corporations and agencies we deal with when we choose air travel."
According to Mamakind, cardholding Canadian medical marijuana patients have been hassled going through security, as Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA -- think TSA) agents haven't been trained to recognize either medical marijuana cards or licenses.
"The old policy stood that even if the cannabis is legal, if it's found amongst your carry-on items, a report would have to be made, sometimes involving police stationed in the airport -- and it could take up to a good 20 minutes to work through the process," Mamakind said. "Often insensitive agents pull out bags of medicine to display for the entire security area, remarking at the scent and/or asking what strain it is.
"After the last time this happened to me, the CATSA representative for Calgary International Airport suggested that I file a complaint in order to get the policy changed," Mamakind said.
According to Mamakind, she was contacted by a CATSA representative this week, informing her that the policy is indeed changing and that a memo to that effect will be circulated nationwide in Canada within the month.
This memo will explain to CATSA agents bout the new policy of recognizing medical marijuana cards and paper licenses, and explain that filing a report when they come across one isn't necessary.
"There will be special notes made regarding the professional, courteous conduct required when an agent does come across marijuana; this medicine is to be treated as they would any other prescription medication," Mamakind said. "Agents don't pull our your Viagra and comment on it, so therefore, the same should be true for your pot.
Mamakind naturally then started wondering: If licensed patients can now bring marijuana with them through airport security, what about medicating in the airport?
"That's the bailiwick of each individual airport authority, so I called the two airports I was dealing with, YYC (Calgary) and YYZ (Toronto)," Mamakind said. "I asked both if there was any reason why I wouldn't be able to use my vaporizer once I'm past security and they said, 'As long as you an find a plug...' "
Mamakind then wondered if perhaps it might be possible to vaporize medication on the airplane as well, so she called WestJet, explained what a vaporizer is and how it works, and confirmed that as long as the device is battery-operated (as in no plug-in required, and no flames needed), and as long as patients aren't using the devices during the times when passengers aren't allowed to use electronic devices -- that is, not during take-off or landing -- she was free to medicate as needed.
"Once on the plane and in the air, the NO2 vaporizer was packed with the much-needed AK47 and I was able to periodically relieve my nausea throughout the over-three-hour flight, becoming the first person to legally and openly vape on a plane," Mamakind said. "I suppose high at 30,000+ feet is about as high as anyone's ever gotten on a commercial airline without medibles."
Mamakind received somewhat less encouraging news from airline Air Canada after contacting them about their policies on vaporization aboard planes.
"Not only did I wait several hours to speak with an agent, Air Canada claimed that, '...it's not on our list of things you can bring on the plane, so therefore it's probably not allowed on the plane.' "
Mamakind is encouraging all Canadian medical marijuana cardholders to contact Air Canada themselves and demand that the same courtesy which is given to WestJet fliers be given to those traveling on Air Canada as well.
"In fact, I encourage everyone to contact any and all domestic airlines and find out their policy about vaping on a plane," Mamakind said.