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Mountie in medical pot dispute in court

FREDERICTON - A New Brunswick Mountie who attracted national attention for complaining that he wasn't allowed to smoke medicinal marijuana for his post-traumatic stress disorder while in uniform has been deemed fit to stand trial on charges of assaulting two RCMP officers, the Crown and defence said Monday.

Cpl. Ron Francis, who faces two counts of assaulting police and one count of resisting arrest, was released from custody after he underwent a 30-day psychiatric assessment. Francis was ordered to follow conditions including that he refrain from alcohol and non-prescription drugs, report to a local mental health clinic and not possess firearms.

He smiled and waved to family and friends as he appeared in Fredericton provincial court but did not speak to reporters when he left the courthouse.

The psychiatric assessment was not dealt with in court, but both Crown and defence lawyers later confirmed Francis was considered mentally fit to face trial.

The case was adjourned until Feb. 4 after defence lawyer T.J. Burke asked for time to review disclosure before entering pleas.

"My client has instructed us, regardless of what's in the disclosure, to enter a plea of not guilty," Burke said outside court.

Burke accused the RCMP of failing to help Francis, who is on leave but remains a member of the police force.

"The Mounties knew he was going to be released today and yet they have no action plan put in place for treatment for Ron Francis," Burke said. "That in itself speaks volumes about the RCMP."

In November, Francis returned his red serge on orders from his superiors but accused the RCMP and the federal government of not doing enough to support officers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The RCMP said its officers who are prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge or regular uniform while taking their medication as it would not portray the right message to the public.

Burke said the RCMP's position doesn't make sense.

"If he is sitting on his back deck and smoking a joint, off-duty, people are going to have that same perception unless they understand why he has been prescribed marijuana."

RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said Francis remains an employee of the Mounties and as such has access to all services and programs that would be offered to help employees with mental health issues. She declined to specify what kind of leave Francis is on, saying that is a confidential employer-employee matter.

Francis was arrested Dec. 6. At the time, the RCMP said they were concerned about his well-being when they found him on a street in downtown Fredericton.

He had to be subdued with a stun gun, the Public Safety Department for Fredericton said.

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