Sask. school board questions trustee over use of medical cannabis during board meetings

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A former trustee who used prescription medications, including cannabis, during school board meetings has made a complaint about the division asking for his personal health information after his disclosure.

In a report issued this month, the Sask. Information and Privacy Commissioner said he didn't find there was a breach of privacy, but recommended Prairie Spirit School Division clarify its policies around issues like medical cannabis use.

The division, which has its main office based in Warman, Sask., put a medical marijuana policy into effect last November for its employees.

Soon after that, one of the trustees voluntarily told fellow trustees and division members that he had a prescription for cannabis and opioids, and that he consumed these substances at board meetings.

He also provided a list of his injuries and a copy of his prescription for cannabis to the board. He did not provide a copy of his prescription for opioids.

"Prairie Spirit was concerned about the Complainant's use of these medications at meetings of the Board," wrote privacy commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski.

A trustee is not an employee, but rather an elected official, he noted.

According to the report, the board chair and vice-chair met with the trustee, and decided they would treat the situation like an accommodation issue, as they would treat it for an employee.

He was asked to have his doctor fill out a medical certificate, which included questions about when he'd last visited a doctor, if he was fit to complete duties as a board member and how dosages affected his mental and physical functions, among other questions.

The trustee questioned whether the division had the need and authority to ask these questions.

Investigation findings

On Dec. 17, 2018, Kruzeniski's office notified the trustee and the school division that he would launch an investigation. On Jan. 2, 2019, the trustee resigned from the board.

The commissioner noted the Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Act prohibits people from consuming cannabis in public places or in schools. However, the regulations don't stop someone from consuming medical cannabis in a public space.

Kruzeniski pointed out it would have made sense for the school division to ask if the trustee was registered with the minister as a medical cannabis patient, as this would have been less intrusive into his personal data.

He said the current division policies did not prohibit the trustee's use of prescription cannabis and opioids.

"I am not persuaded that Prairie Spirit was authorized to collect the Complainant's personal information listed in the medical questionnaire for these purposes," he wrote.

However, since the personal information on the medical questionnaire was not collected, there was no privacy breach, he found.

He recommended the division think about whether its policies on medical cannabis and other medical or recreational substance use should apply to board members and other people that were on the school division properties. He also recommended Prairie Spirit address collection of personal information and data minimization in its policies.

According to the report, the board had committed to following the recommendations on its policies and will also consider whether it should return or destroy the complainant's personal information, based on guidance from its legal counsel.

As of Wednesday morning, Prairie Spirit School Division had not returned calls for comment.

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