Medical Patient Filing Human Rights Complaint Against Manitoba Court After Being Denied Entry

Medical cannabis user and Green Party candidate Steven Stairs said he’s filing a human rights complaint over the inconsistent issues he’s had entering the Manitoba Courts.

Stairs said when he attempted to enter the Winnipeg court house on Jan. 18 to support dispensary operator Glenn Price, who was in court that day appearing on charges related to the August raid on his business, security refused to allow him to enter.

When asked to remove all items in his pockets, which revealed several grams of medical cannabis, Stairs was denied entry into the building, despite carrying an MMAR license which grants him the ability possess and use medical marijuana.

“They didn’t care, they basically told me because I have an invalid license that I’m not allowed in the building,” Stairs said.

MMPR licence holders were allowed entry, but Stairs said those under the old MMAR program, which allows users to grow their own medicine instead of purchasing from federally sanctioned businesses, were also refused entry.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice said they “wouldn’t speak to a specific individual or situation” but that appropriate documentation would be accepted at the court house.

“If a person has appropriate documentation to possess or use marijuana, it would not be seized,” the spokesperson said. “The individual would be asked by sheriff’s officers to leave the marijuana in their vehicle or another location to gain entry to the building. If the documentation is not valid, then it is confiscated.”

This isn’t the first time Stairs has had issue with the courts, in August he was refused entry for carrying a bong. 

Stairs said he considered filing the compliant in August, but was then allowed to enter with the same paraphernalia a few months later, in November.

“Before you said I wasn’t allowed in because of my bong and the next time I came without my bong you let me in, so where’s the consistency here?” Stairs said.

Manitoba Justice said items like bongs are considered contraband at the court.

“Contraband is any item that is illegal or could pose a security risk to courthouse users and staff,” the spokesperson said. “Marijuana, bongs and other drug paraphernalia are considered contraband and are not permitted into the courthouse.”

“A person who agrees to relinquish a contraband item would be admitted to the building unless they were belligerent, abusive or refused to be screened.”

Stairs said he’s tried to contact the Manitoba sheriff’s office, who provides security to the court house, in the past to clear up the issue around patients carrying cannabis, but was rebuffed.

“I basically tried to preempt the whole problem by letting them know that patients were going to be coming there,” Stairs said. “I was trying to be the olive brach, trying to extend some peace offerings.”

Stairs said when he contacted security he was told they had no responsibility to allow patients into the building with marijuana and hung up on him.

Stairs said he returned to the courts on Jan. 19 with several documents that explained the legal status of MMAR patients in Canada and presented them to the security office.

“I’m trying to be helpful, to stop this situation from going forward,” Stairs said. “Unfortunately when generic pot advocate guy is telling you ‘you’re wrong’ they don’t usually believe me.”

Stairs said court security refused to receive the documents.

Now planning on filing a human rights complaint against the provincial department of justice and the sheriff’s office, Stairs said he’s clear that his position is valid.

“I know the statute I know my rights and I know what they did,” Stairs said.

Stairs said he suspected that officials at the court house have shown”a conscious decision not to have the appropriate information.”

“It’s a lack of education and I think it’s willful ignorance as well,” Stairs said. “They’re not being disseminated the proper information from above and therefore they’re up to their own choosing to either violate or follow the law as they see fit.”

Stairs said he’s headed back to the court offices on Friday, when he hopes he’ll be met with a different response.