New medical pot rules could be boon for greenhouses: councillor

Chilliwack city reps have been lobbying hard for Health Canada to make changes to the way medical marijuana is produced. New rules may be coming soon.

Chilliwack city reps have been lobbying hard for Health Canada to make changes to the way medical marijuana is produced — citing health and safety concerns.

New rules could be coming soon, according a release Friday by federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq.

“These proposed improvements reflect concerns we have heard from all kinds of Canadians including law enforcement, fire officials, municipalities, program participants and the medical profession,” said Minister Aglukkaq.

Central is the idea of restricting medical marijuana production to licensed commercial growers, who would be regulated and inspected regularly by Health Canada.

It takes individual and designated growers out of the equation under a streamlined system.

The kudos started coming in swiftly.

“It appears we’ve been heard,” said Coun. Chuck Stam, who is also chair of the city’s public safety committee. “From all indications, it’s a good, solid step in the right direction.

“I think they’re looking at some bold measures, like pushing the production (of medical marijuana) out of the residential areas.”

Asked if he’d rather to see medical grow-ops located in commercial or agricultural areas, Stam answered, “Agricultural.”

In fact it could be “a boon” for the local greenhouse industry, which has fallen on hard times.

“Many greenhouse operations are struggling to survive and this would allow them a commercial opportunity to grow crops,” he said.

It’s logical on many levels, said the city councillor.

“There would be a lot more space in an agricultural context, which would also make sense given certain smells created. It’s more associated with a horticultural activity.”

The proposed changes suggested by Health Canada were also praised by the local MP.

Growing medical marijuana in neighbourhoods “is a fire and health hazard” that’s become “easily exploited by a dangerous criminal element,” according to Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl.

“I am very pleased the Government has listened to concerns expressed by law enforcement, fire officials and our own municipality and is taking action to make our neighbourhoods safer,” he said.

Personal-use and designated-person production licences would be phased out and individuals would no longer be able to grow marijuana for medical purposes in their homes and communities.

Participants would no longer submit application forms or personal medical information to Health Canada to obtain an authorization to possess marijuana. Patients will take their access documents from their doctors directly to the licensed commercial producer.

The feds would also cease contracting out for the production and distribution of dried marijuana or marijuana seeds for medical purposes. The commercial producers would be regulated by Health Canada and be the “only legal source of dried marijuana for medical purposes,” according to the proposal.

The changes were lauded by Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Berry Vrbanovic.

“We welcome the federal government’s commitment to develop smarter rules that allow municipalities to do our job protecting neighbourhood safety and delivering front-line police, fire and emergency services,” he said.

Legalization or decriminalization of marijuana is not a part of the proposed changes, the minister warned. marijuana will continue to be regulated as a controlled substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

A nationwide public consultation period runs until July 31, seeking feedback on the proposal. Check out http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/consultation/marihuana/_2011/program/index-eng.php for more on the consultation and the proposed changes.

“With such a short consultation period, it won’t go on ad nauseum. It will be short and sweet, and we can move on to solutions.” said Stam.

 

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