A medical marijuana using Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer has kicked off a media storm in Canada this week after publicly admitted his cannabis use while on the job, notably while in the iconic red uniforms Mounties are known for wearing.
This caused outrage from the RCMP, but not so much about Cpl. Ronald Francis using ganja itself. He can do that and even while on the job, they say. But the Yukon will thaw before he’s allowed to light up while wearing his Red Serge.
Francis got his medical pot license on Nov. 4 to help deal with PTSD symptoms. There’s no policy against it in the RCMP either. He’s prescribed about an eighth of an ounce per-day, though he says he normally doesn’t toke all of that at once. He says he tokes a joint in the morning, and tokes a joint at night. He tokes a joint in the afternoon and, yes, it makes him feel all right – or at least, more relaxed. And, he says, it’s better than turning to prescription drugs or alcohol that can lead to overdose deaths — something he knows from experience.
“I started to self-medicate with alcohol. And I said no, this is not me. Why am I doing this?” he tells the Canadian Broadcasting Company. “When I explored [cannabis]as a treatment for my PTSD, I had to really make a moral decision about it. Because the RCMP and law enforcement, they seem so anti-marijuana, and that’s a hard thing to overcome, so I had to make that decision for my own health. It wasn’t based on my career or anything. … In doing that I realized that I have to come first. The organization doesn’t come first, Ron Francis comes first. For my own health. And I’m glad I did that.”
But his department wasn’t. Medical cannabis is somewhat of a new issue for the RCMP to deal with in terms of officers having medical cannabis recommendations. As of yesterday, top brass said MMJ-using officers can’t carry guns or drive cruisers and must work desk-jobs – but noted that’s no different than policies regarding other mind-altering legal drugs like Valium or Oxycontin.
Their biggest concerns, clearly, is an image problem of a law enforcement officer toking up in uniform.
“Definitely a member that has been prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge taking his medication,” RCMP assistant commissioner Gilles Moreau told CBC. “It would not be advisable for that member, it would not portray the right message to the general public, it’s definitely not something we would support or condone.”
And they mean it. Last night officers showed up at Francis’s house and seized the uniform he’s worn for more than two decades – all except for his badge, since he’s still on the force.
Francis also says he’s been issued letters from his commanding officers to quit talking to the media. Basically, they want him to go away.
“So basically they’re trying to disavow me,” he said last night. “The heavy hand’s coming down on me, but I knew I’d have to prepare for that. It’s got to change before more people die.”