U of T philosophy professor Doug Hutchinson, who won the right this week to smoke pot during work hours for an undisclosed medical condition, goes public about his travails in an open letter released September 22 to U of T authorities, fellow philosophy professors and graduate students.
Greetings, philosophers. I thought I should let you know that as of this week our university has a professor who smokes marijuana openly on campus, legally, and with workplace accommodation for his need to use this remedy.
I am that professor.
I feel it falls to me to let you know this state of affairs in the proper terms so that the inevitable rumours and possible slanders that arise can be ignored or challenged by you, my peers and fellow philosophers.
I have used marijuana for a serious and chronic health condition for over 10 years, in varying amounts for the varying condition.
Currently, the use is heavy and the condition is stable or improving. As for what this condition is, I would ask you please not to speculate or spread rumours or half-truths. Canada has laws that are meant to protect the privacy of personal health information.
If you know me well, you will feel free to ask.
How did I manage this transition from clandestine smoker to officially accommodated one? It was an ugly process that started when college and university authorities, acting on policies to repress the use of marijuana among students, decided that they needed to enforce those laws and policies against me as well.
Over the course of months of sometimes angry discussions, the other side learned better what the facts of my case and the laws on marijuana actually are.
The outcome is that I have been provided with a ventilated basement smoking room in Trinity College, and the provost of the college and the provost of the university have both written me letters in which they "acknowledge" and "respect" my choice of therapy.
I take this opportunity to thank the college and the university for this good solution and for these necessary affirmations of the legitimacy of my conduct.
Colleagues and other U of T employees who may need adapted working conditions due to a health condition should know that since 2003 our university has had an Office of Health and Well-being Programs and Services, whose function is to support the work of afflicted employees.
The staff in this office recommend the appropriate accommodation while holding health information confidential from all other university parties. I found this process worked fairly well, and I feel that others should know about it and trust in its integrity.
Colleagues and others who use marijuana wholly or partly for medical reasons should be using medical-grade marijuana, with a good selection of strains, of which there are currently two sources of supply in Toronto.
I know these compassion clubs well and will be glad to offer informed advice. Colleagues and others who wonder whether their use of marijuana is medical, or whether they should try some preparation of marijuana for their health condition, should feel free to apply to me for guidance and further information.
Professors who become known as heavy users of marijuana risk a great loss of credibility, and I wish I had been able to remain discreet; but I was "outed" by college authorities from where I was hiding in my "dope closet."
Under these circumstances, I decided to come out fully into the open, on my own terms. This is the reason I am writing this letter to you; and this is the reason I explained the situation to my undergraduate class on Tuesday, before they could be shocked (or not) at the sight of me puffing during the break (outside the building, of course).
It would be realistic of me to expect a higher than usual degree of scrutiny of my performance at this time; but rather than resent this scrutiny, the better plan is to invite it. There are 10 spare seats in my third-year class on Seneca, which meets from 10 am to 1 pm on Tuesdays, and I invite visits to my class from graduate students, colleagues and higher university officials to see for themselves whether the pot-head professor is teaching well.
Please get in touch with me if you intend to visit; and if you wish I will send you the Seneca readings for the day.
It is not a satisfactory defence of my Charter rights to have my grudging authorization from Health Canada while students and others are hounded as criminals for doing what looks like the very same thing; this casts dark shadows of opprobrium on the blameless sick.
My experience in coming out into the open has rekindled my activism on the marijuana front, and I am now building, with other Canadian activists, fresh legal challenges to our Charter-defective and previously invalidated prohibition, which seems to have been miraculously resurrected in October 2003 .
I invite colleagues and others to join me in this liberal struggle.