Should a person who has used marijuana be required need to have their head examined?
That is the question that arose this past summer when a lawyer in my office received a very unusual request from a Canadian visa post relating to the application for permanent residence of one of our clients.
The applicant underwent the standard medical test that all intending immigrants must take before being approved for landing in Canada. During the course of the test, the doctor asked him whether or not he had ever used drugs.
The applicant admitted to the use of marijuana.
This answer led immigration officials to issue a letter to our client asking him to undergo psychiatric evaluation, at his own expense, in order to allow the continued processing of his application.
In 23 years of practice I had never heard of such a request for what appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary use of marijuana.
Because this request was, in my experience, unprecedented and because there was nothing in the facts of the case that seemed to warrant such an invasive examination, I asked the immigration department’s media people if Canada is now requiring all intending immigrants who admit to marijuana use to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
According to Melanie Carkner, spokesperson for CIC:
- Marijuana use can be associated with [other] psychiatric conditions. A psychiatric report can be requested to look at the possibility of …the presence of more than one disease or health condition in an individual at a time.
- Medical refusals would not be based solely on the past use of marijuana, but could be based on a condition meeting the definition of "substance abuse."
- The possession, trafficking or cultivating of cannabis is illegal in Canada and that a conviction in relation to this may render a person inadmissible to Canada.
She didn’t directly answer my question as to whether or not there was some new policy or directive in the way marijuana users are screened from a medical admissibility point of view.
Since the immigration department’s authority is now so tightly managed by policy instructions from Ottawa I doubted that a medical officer or a visa officer would take it upon themselves to order a psychiatric evaluation for someone who simply admits to recreational marijuana use.
My suspicion that this request might be reflective of some new policy was strengthened this weekend when I read a story in the National Post about the case of Chris Tarttelin. In 2008, Tarttelin, 37, moved from the U.K. with his wife and two children to work as a computer programmer in Saskatoon under our foreign worker program. When he applied for permanent residence he underwent the usual medical test and candidly admitted to using marijuana when he was 18. He too was asked to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
This seems to me to be more than just sheer coincidence. The reply I received from immigration officials seems even less adequate now.
I am wondering if Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and his Tory colleagues are attempting to find new ways to refuse the applications of admitted cannabis users. I would like to hear from any readers who have had a similar experience.
After all, it’s a bit crazy to think that a person might be crazy just because they have tried marijuana. Don’t you think?
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is
certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration
specialist. For more information, visit www.migrationlaw.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org