Canada: Veteran Says More Education Needed By Airport Security On Medicinal Cannabis

Photo Credit: Adrienne South

A New Brunswick veteran says airport security personnel across the country need better education and training when it comes to how they interact with passengers travelling with medical cannabis.

Burton resident Laurie Manzer was travelling back from Toronto this week after speaking at a cannabis conference when he ran into problems bringing his medical cannabis back to New Brunswick.

Manzer said he had no problems flying out of Fredericton with his medical cannabis, stored in its original prescription container, but said Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) personnel told him he had to take his marijuana out of its original packaging and empty it into a clear plastic bag.

Photo Credit: Adrienne South

Manzer lives with PTSD and said he had all his proper documentation and was following all the protocol by transporting it in its original container. He said he was also transporting other prescription anti-anxiety medication with him as well, and said staff never gave it a second glimpse.

“As I get better and am able to travel more and more, I knew something like this had a possibility of happening. I have hundreds and hundreds of veteran friends, many who are on cannabis and I hear stories from time to time, but this time, it happened to me and it makes me angry when grown men are reduced to tears because they’re chastised for using a legal medicine that Veteran Affairs actually pays for and gives us from the taxpayer,” Manzer said.

“As a result of this situation and my complaint, the only reason I put in a complaint that I feel may be petty for a person like me is that so many of my brothers and sisters have been treated even worse than this, they’ve been reduced to tears,” Manzer said.

He said he’s not looking for any type of compensation or an apology. He says there needs to be better education when it comes to how veterans and civilians are treated when it comes to their medication, whether that’s cannabis or not.

“I hope some better education comes out of this and our veterans and our medical civilians get treated with a little bit of respect,” Manzer said.

Manzer volunteers for CannaConnect, a company that connects all Canadians and veterans to doctors and specialists, and educates them on how to use medical cannabis. He said many of the people he helps educate also have anxiety and any sort of negative experience transporting medical cannabis could cause them to withdraw and relapse back into a worse state.

“There are civilians out there and first responders out there that are this bad too and I really care for them… our police officers, our firefighters, our paramedics, they’re in the same boat as some of the worst off veterans. This has to stop and people have to start doing their jobs especially when it affects people this negatively,” Manzer said.

In an email statement from CATSA, spokesperson Suzanne Perseo said the security of the travelling public is CATSA’s top priority.

“All complaints are taken seriously and are investigated by our client satisfaction team,” Perseo said. “The complaint in question is currently being investigated and we cannot comment further until the investigation has been completed.”

She said CATSA doesn’t keep statistics on the number of passengers who declare they have cannabis.

“Passengers can consult the CATSA website for our current procedures on travelling with cannabis,” Perseo said.

Manzer said he was following the procedures and said he hopes others who have had similar experiences will come forward.

“I just want to see maybe some education or extra training come out of this. Now, thanks to the media, word will get out across Canada and we’ll see if this is a bigger issue,” Manzer said.

“It’s always hard to see if it’s an issue when sick people don’t want to talk. A year ago, I would have withdrawn and nobody would have known, but I’m better now and I’ve developed a bit of tenacity to protect myself, so I’m doing fine. I can fight back now and fight for those that don’t have a voice.”