Our nation is watching as a man’s career goes up in smoke.
The story of New Brunswick Mountie Cpl. Ron Francis’s medicinal marijuana use that dominated the press last week was a welcome reprieve from talking about crack cocaine.
But Francis, 42, is a 21-year veteran with the RCMP. Though he’s not an elected official, he became the centre of controversy after images showed him taking his medicinal marijuana in uniform.
Francis has a prescription for marijuana to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he says is a result of his time with the RCMP.
“I had to shovel a childhood friend into a body bag. . . . I’ve been to two murders,” Francis told the Fredericton Daily Gleaner. “I’ve gone through cars with five dead bodies looking for identification.”
There was also a plot to kill him that was broken up by jail authorities. He has spoken to the media about depression, nightmares, sleep loss and anxiety. He said these are the conditions he suffers from after policing his home community of Kinsclear First Nation.
Francis is not on patrol. He works from his desk, doesn’t carry a gun and doesn’t drive RCMP cruisers.
On Thursday, as a result of the public relations nightmare Francis has caused, officers came to his home and took his uniforms. He turned in his red serge on Friday, as ordered, with tears in his eyes — after removing his medal for 20 years of exemplary service.
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, in an interview with Tobi Cohen, said Francis’ display sets a bad example for Canadians “in the sense that it sets a very poor example to flout the law.”
Apparently MacKay sees no difference between the recreational drug use of politicians and Francis’ legal prescription to combat the PTSD he allegedly developed as a result of his more than 20 years of service.
But, as one astute radio analyst put it: Francis poked the RCMP in the eye, and they poked back.
As of this writing, Francis still had a job, just not the outfits to match.
If he wanted to avoid this route, he shouldn’t have smoked marijuana (even legally) while wearing one of the world’s most recognizable uniforms.
The RCMP’s response is logical. The Mounties have PR damage to control.
But the positive outcome is that Francis has already exposed a lot of dated public concepts. This Mountie is not a “stoner.” He does not smoke marijuana to get high.
It’s medicine. Prescribed by a doctor.
According to Health Canada, it’s illegal to ingest medical marijuana through any non-smoking alternatives, and vapourizers are expensive.
Francis must have known the possible consequences of his actions, but he was willing to take the risk. And he must’ve had his reasons.
But, as Canadians, we should be able to respect the courage of this man.
Francis might have sacrificed his 21-year career to address these issues; the least we can do is debate and analyze our own biases in the hopes of making Canada an even more understanding country.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.