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BC: City Nipping It in the Bud

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Mayor Sharon Gaetz has had concerns about medicinal marijuana growers for years and now she wants the city to restrict the activity using zoning bylaws.

"The city has really no authority in enforcing any aspects of the criminal code but we do have the responsibility of enforcing health and safety issues and this is becoming a health and safety issue," Gaetz said at city council on Monday.

Council endorsed a recommendation "that city staff explore the development of a bylaw regarding medicinal marijuana grow operations that would include zoning restrictions."

The recommendation came out of the Oct. 13 meeting of the public safety advisory committee during which a July bylaw banning medical marijuana in Pitt Meadows was discussed.

Pitt Meadows council passed a land use bylaw amendment ensuring grow operations are not permitted as home-based businesses in any city zone nor as agricultural operations. The bylaw applies to those with Health Canada licences to grow for other people.

Gaetz said in Chilliwack someone growing "two or three plants on their windowsill" is not a concern. But those with a federal licence to grow through the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations "can grow any amount" with no regulations on lights or size.

The mayor said the city is concerned about electricity use, water issues, disposal of fertilizers, fire danger and theft if criminals find out about the plants.

In March of this year, a 53-year-old licensed marijuana grower in east Chilliwack was targeted by two men who entered his home in an attempt to steal his crop.

But critics say the city's stance amounts to fear-mongering over critically ill individuals trying to access medicine.

"I think it is yet another step towards the continued marginalization and stigmatization of medical marijuana production," said Kirk Tousaw, a Vancouver lawyer and executive director of Beyond Prohibition Foundation, an organization that seeks to repeal marijuana prohibition.

"When municipalities begin to take steps in this direction, what they are doing, consciously or otherwise, is essentially stamping out the ability for patients to produce medicine for themselves or other critically ill Canadians. I don't think that's acceptable policy for municipalities."

As for the health and safety issues, Tousaw says it is nonsense that the growing of plants indoors--something done by countless people--is inherently dangerous. He suggested the move by Gaetz and council will backfire and create further health and safety issues as medical marijuana growers are further stigmatized and forced to go underground.

"What Chilliwack will ensure is that people are not going to come forward and hire contractors and pull permits and do it to code because they are stigmatized thanks to this behaviour," he said.

For Tousaw and other legalization activists there is one thing they agree with Gaetz about: marijuana growing should be taken out of homes.

"Obviously it would be better if people could grow for 15, 50 or 500 people, then you could have a business and take advantage of economies of scale and do it in a warehouse," he said.

NewsHawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Chilliwack Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Chilliwack Times
Contact: editorial@chilliwacktimes.com
Website: http://www.chilliwacktimes.com/
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Author: Paul J. Henderson
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