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Ontario government frowns on vaping and medical marijuana in public

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The Ontario government is vaporizing the use of medical marijuana in public places, the Star has learned.

In a major policy U-turn, Queen’s Park will ban the smoking and vaping of medicinal pot in all enclosed public places, workplaces, and many outdoor areas as well as curb the use and sale of e-cigarettes.

Associate health minister Dipika Damerla is expected to outline the changes on Thursday.

Sources said the potentially controversial anti-toking and anti-vaping measures were approved by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet on Wednesday afternoon.

The moves are “to strengthen . . . smoking laws to better protect people from second-smoke, whether from a tobacco product or medical marijuana,” an official said.

While a ban on selling e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19 took effect on Jan. 1, the regulations limiting where adults could vape were in limbo.

That’s because the government had to go back to the drawing board after new rules came out last November that would have allowed people to smoke or vape medical marijuana in any public place where smoking is otherwise prohibited.

The original exemptions included restaurants, offices, movie theatres, stadiums, and even children’s playgrounds.

That led to accusations the government had made a hash of things, which forced Damerla to take a second look.

“We will consider this feedback, look at it very carefully and see what we need to do,” the minister said last fall. “It’s too early to say whether this was a failure or not. It’s important that governments be responsive.”

Business owners were unhappy at the possibility of having to tell people to butt out their medication in order appease other customers concerned about second-hand smoke or vapour.

Restaurants Canada had implored the government to rethink the policy instead of putting restaurateurs on the spot.

Medical marijuana users can include HIV, cancer, and glaucoma patients and those with severe epilepsy who require it to control seizures.

There are about 23,000 Canadians who have prescriptions from their doctors to take cannabis in various forms. For the most part their medicinal marijuana comes from producers licensed and inspected by Health Canada.

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