Medical marijuana mishap leads to missed flight
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Dec 23, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Medical marijuana mishap leads to missed flight

Burlington man said he was told by Air Canada he couldn’t get on flight unless he discarded the prescription marijuana


Michael Korchak was admittedly a little nervous flying home to Toronto from Halifax for the holidays last week.

This was the first time the Burlington resident was travelling with his medicine on him: a small bottle of medical marijuana.

He knew from some research that possession of the drug could lead to questioning and delays at the airport. But he thought he was prepared.

He arrived three hours early for the domestic flight, so his papers could be checked. And he said he told Air Canada employees right away that he was carrying the medicine, and showed them all the accompanying documentation.

Right off the bat, things didn’t go well.

“I thought being upfront would be appropriate,” he said. “But I was told my form of medication wasn’t acceptable . . . and that Air Canada policy would only accept the pill form, while I had the herb form,” he said, adding that he was told that he could not board the flight with it.

Korchak, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, who is being released due to medical reasons from an injury he received while in service, said he went to RCMP officials at the airport to get clarification, and they verified his documents, telling him he should be allowed to travel.

With their permission, he proceeded to his gate — when an Air Canada manager told him he would have to throw out the drugs in order to get on board.

“I was subjected to unprofessional and discriminatory conduct from Air Canada representatives and their agents; including being threatened to have me removed from the airport, not get a refund, and be placed on an Air Canada No-Fly list,” Korchak wrote in a letter to Air Canada, a few days after the incident. “I was discriminated against from the moment I was upfront and honest about my needs and was embarrassed in front of a large amount of people, airport employees and passengers alike,” he wrote.

According to advice available online, travelling with medical marijuana can be a challenge and users are advised to be transparent and patient with the process of getting their papers checked.

Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman with Air Canada said while Korchak “had official medical authorization forms he was not accepted for travel because his medical marijuana was in leaf form and our travel policies at the time only permitted medical marijuana in pill form,” he said. “Our procedures for travelling with medical marijuana have since been amended to include leaf form.”

He said the airline has also apologized, immediately offered a refund, and assisted him in booking a flight on another airline.

Korchak said he has yet to receive his refund, and still feels haunted by the experience.

“If I was carrying insulin, or some other medication, I wouldn’t have been treated like this, or questioned in this way,” he said.

But now with Air Canada’s policy change, he says he is optimistic his experience will prevent someone else from being embarrassed and singled out like he was.

“It’s too late for me, but if it makes it easier for someone else to travel with their medicine, I’m happy,” he said.

Toronto Star

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