Medical marijuana smoker Steve Gibson wants the owner of a local sports bar to let him smoke his legal joints in the same spot outside the business where tobacco users are permitted to light up. Ted Kindos, the owner of Gator Ted’s Tap and Grill, says he simply wants Gibson not to smoke his pot close to the front doors of his Guelph Line restaurant. The two men are locked in a battle that has been before the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) for about two and a half years.
The issue of where Gibson, and those like him, who have the legal right to smoke marijuana for medical reasons, can light up in public is likely to be decided later this year. The case has involved three OHRC mediation sessions, without an agreement, and has now been sent to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for a hearing. OHRC manager of communications Jeff Poirier told the Post last Thursday that the tribunal has set aside eight hearing dates beginning May 12. A location is still to be determined for the public sessions. “There could be a remedy for the complainant (ordered) and a change to public policy,” Poirier said of possible outcomes at a tribunal, “(but) the commission endeavours to settle complaints before it goes to a tribunal. (Even) at a tribunal we’re open to settling or mediating.”
Based on what he’s heard at the mediation sessions, Kindos said he believes officials have already made up their mind and will rule against him. On his website’s main page — www.gatorteds.ca — Kindos describes the case as he sees it and asks for the support of his customers. The OHRC’s Poirier said no verdict has been reached just that the commission determined enough evidence exists to send the issue to a tribunal.
In interviews with the Post late last week, Gibson and Kindos expressed their entrenched positions and said they feel the other is absolutely wrong. Gibson believes his individual rights have been trampled, that he is being singled out and segregated from tobacco smokers. Kindos says his rights as a respected businessman of a family-run operation, and the wishes of his customers who don’t want to be around marijuana smokers, are being infringed. The issue came to a head in May 2005 when Gibson, a frequent patron of Gator Ted’s for 11 years, alleges Kindos verbally-berated him outside the restaurant for the second time in a month, telling him to leave the area and to go home to smoke his pot from then on.
Kindos counters that it isn’t fair that he’s being made to look like the bad guy in the case. “All I’m saying is not (to smoke pot) at the front door. I had enough complaints from customers to say to Steve, ‘Enough is enough’. “This issue isn’t about Gibson any longer,” said Kindos. “The (possible) precedent (ruling) is they are going to be able to smoke this stuff anywhere they want — inside or outside (public places).” Kindos said the legal bills he faces may put him on the brink of bankruptcy. Even if he wins the case, he said it is going to cost him a lot of money, and still may force him to close Gator Ted’s. At the last mediation session Gibson, through his OHRC-appointed counsel, ask for a number of things from Kindos to settle the matter including $20,000 for mental anguish. Also being sought is for Kindos to pay for annual training and re-training of his staff on human rights policies.
“I don’t know what to do now. Do I pay him his $20,000 and allow him back in and destroy my business or do I fight for $150,000, which I don’t have, which is going to still bankrupt me and still close my restaurant. I’m in a no-win situation. I’ve already had a quadruple bypass three years ago and I know I’m going to have another heart attack before May. The tightness in my chest the last two days is like a vice; I’m probably going to have to take a medical leave any day now,” said Kindos.
Gibson, 42, said he has been in debilitating neck pain for 19 years. He said that in 1989 he was hit on the head by a box of heavy vinyl siding at his job in Mississauga. He said he damaged two neck vertebrae and did not work for a long time. He said he tried working full time about three years ago but couldn’t handle the job’s physical requirements. He now receives a medical disability pension from the province. “I have a spinal cord injury. It creates severe pain and muscle spasms. I’ve seen neurosurgeons but they haven’t been able to help,” said Gibson. Surgery hasn’t been an option, he said, because of the sensitive area of the injury. He’s hopeful ongoing clinical trials he’s heard about, which use botox injections on injured necks, might help him in the future.
For now, Gibson says marijuana is what eases the pain. He received his certificate to smoke marijuana legally from the federal government about 3 1/2 years ago but said he discovered the pain-reducing qualities of pot long before that. He had been using it for about six months when the issue came to a head with Kindos. Gibson said when Gator Ted’s had a Designated Smoking Room (DSR) — an enclosed, ventilated smoking area later phased out by the city in advance of a sweeping provincial anti-smoking law for public places — he thought he should be allowed to smoke his medical marijuana in it but didn’t push the issue when Kindos told him he couldn’t.
“I was trying to be a nice guy and went outside (the bar) to smoke but it wasn’t good enough for him,” Gibson said. “He wants me outside his bar by 100 feet. I just want to be treated like every other (tobacco) smoker,” whom he says are often within 10 feet of the bar’s front doors. “They’re out there killing themselves (with tobacco cigarettes) and I’m taking medicine. If I have to be 100 feet away from everybody else’s property, I’d be pretty much grounded to my house.” He said he’s never had any problems taking his medication at other restaurants in the city or in public areas. Gibson says he’s not insensitive to others’ feelings about his marijuana smoke. “I have a wife and two children and there’s no smoking in the house.” Two of his friends built him a heated, insulated shed in his backyard where he smokes his medical marijuana.
Local medical marijuana user and advocate Alison Myrden said she and Gibson are among the approximately 2,300 people in Canada allowed to smoke pot legally. From reading medical association journals and reports on the subject, she said her understanding is that far more Canadians smoke pot to ease the pain of a medical condition. Myrden, 44, has multiple sclerosis and occasionally uses a wheelchair. She has been puffing pot or taking pills hourly for years for her severe facial pain, but said smoking works much faster than a pill. She has had her pot licence since 2000.
Myrden said she hadn’t heard of Gibson’s battle with Gator Ted’s but received a call from Gibson this week looking for moral support. “It’s so exciting and it’s about time this happened. It just proves that I’m not the only one out there fighting…. People like me and Steve aren’t going anywhere. There are more and more of us every day and we’re becoming more public because we’re healthier because we’re using cannabis as medicine and we’re able to stay on our feet and get out in public.”
Although she didn’t want to name businesses, Myrden said she has been asked by some commercial operators here to not smoke her medical pot on their premises. “I’ve had the police called on me a couple of times locally, at different restaurants and bars. I’ve gone outside to smoke and I’ve been asked by the police to not do it and I show them my (medical) licence and say, ‘Sorry, this is my legal right’…” She said police acknowledge her right to smoke pot. She also said she stands off business property to smoke if she’s asked to do so. Myrden added that she hasn’t been bothered by anyone when she smokes her pot outside various businesses near her home. She noted she’s been able to smoke inside businesses when she goes to Toronto to socialize with friends.
– Article from Burlington Post news
– Listen to two radio interviews from Charles Adler online at www.cknw.com/shows/show_charlesadler.cfm
Gator Ted’s vs. Medcinal Marijuana
Click here to listen to this Adler Online interview
Ted Kindos, who runs Gator Ted’s Tap & Grill in Burlington, is currently mired in a battle with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario regarding a former customer, Steve Gibson, and his use of medicinal marijuana near the restaurant. Charles spoke with Ted about the situation.
Medicinal Marijuana user defends Gator Ted
Click here to listen to this Adler Online interview
David is a medicinal marijuana user, and called in to Adler On Line in defense of Gator Ted’s situation with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.