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Two-pronged attack on medical grow operations

Fire. Mould. Grow-rips.

These are some of the dangers to the community posed by medical marijuana grow-ops, say city officials.

Council is moving ahead on its agenda to wrest some control over medical marijuana operations inside City of Chilliwack boundaries — mainly due to public safety reasons.

It’s been a decade since the federal government introduced the access regulations allowing for the licensing of medical marijuana production, said Coun. Chuck Stam.

“Here we are 10 years later and they have not lived up to expectations that there would be inspections. An inspector for Health Canada? No one in B.C. has seen one, and yet they are handing out these licences like candy.”

Two relevant recommendations were approved at the last council meeting.

One argues, in a submission to the federal government through UBCM, that the inspection of medicinal marihuana should be “downloaded” to the province for enforcement.

The other is a recommendation that strata councils should prohibit medical grow-ops within their buildings.

“There are health hazards and rental properties being destroyed. Then there are grow-rips,” said Stam. “There are all kinds of public safety issues emerging, and it’s the seriousness that’s prompting some action.”

The threat of constitutional challenges down the road don’t faze the city councillor, who is also chair of the city’s public safety committee.

“They can blow all the smoke they want over this,” he said. “We are not having a moral discussion here. It’s public safety.”

The licensing falls under federal jurisdiction with Health Canada, and an increasing number of municipalities across B.C., like Pitt Meadows, Surrey and Chilliwack, looking for relief from the program’s irritants.

“It’s become more of a serious concern for us since we don’t know where the licensed medical grows are located due to privacy regulations,” Stam said.

That’s partly why the strata council recommendation emerged from the public safety committee.

The city is not “threatening” strata owners in any way, Stam said. It’s an information bulletin that’s being sent to them, touching on safety and insurance topics.

“Stratas may choose to wash their hands of it and say it’s not their issue.

“But at least we will have called attention to the matter and done our due diligence. Health Canada is 10 years behind on this one. They opened this can of worms but there has been no follow-up.”

A total of 3,576 Canadians were licensed to cultivate/produce marihuana for medical purposes, as of January 2010 according to federal sources, while 2,822 people hold a personal-use production licence and 754 hold a designated-person production licence under the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR).

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