Pot Bylaw Sparks Legal Fire


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Chilliwack is looking at a bylaw to stop licenced medical marijuana growers from growing pot for other licence-holders, "similar" to one introduced recently in Pitt Meadows.

Coun. Chuck Stam, who chairs Chilliwack's public safety committee, said abuse of the medical marijuana licensing system is a growing problem here, with several licence-holders "parking" their licences on one property, growing more plants than legally permitted.

And Health Canada is not living up to a commitment to inspect the sites to ensure compliance with the rules, he said.

But medical marijuana users and activists say it's unfair to "punish" all medical marijuana patients because of the actions of a few, and they'll challenge the Pitt Meadows bylaw in court.

"We don't need new laws to punish all patients for the actions of one or two who break the rules," said Norm Smith, a medical marijuana licence-holder in the Fraser Valley.

He said many patients like him suffer physical disabilities that prevent them from growing their own marijuana.

"(The bylaw) is going to make life tough for people who already have the toughest life out there," he said, pointing out that medical marijuana is authorized by doctors only as a "medication of last resort."

Last month, PItt Meadows council gave preliminary approval to a bylaw amendment that clarifies that growing pot for other medical marijuana patients is a home-based business, which is already banned in residential zones.

Growing medical marijuana with a licence will still be permitted in the city.

Pitt Meadows director of operations Kim Grout said the bylaw is aimed at "commercial-type undertakings where someone is being paid to grow for someone else."

Under the federal regulations, a licence-holder is allowed to grow marijuana for two other licence holders.

Police in Maple Ridge recently seized 1,744 pots plants at a medical marijuana grow-op that was licenced for a maximum 73 plants.

But Smith said most medical marijuana growers are "very much 'by-the-book' because they don't want to lose their licence ... they play by the rules."

Dana Larsen, a pot activist who operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver, said if municipalities are worried about potential hazards of home grow operations, they should licence and regulate them.

"They would be no more dangerous than growing orchids in your home," he said.

City inspectors could visit the home, he added, and for a fee verify the grow operation meets safety standards, "instead of driving them underground and making it more dangerous."

Vancouver lawyer Kirk Tousaw, executive director of the pro-marijuana Beyond Prohibition Foundation, agreed.

He believes the Pitt Meadows bylaw is "discriminatory" and "based on a whole bunch of myths and misconceptions about producing marijuana."

"I certainly think it's not within the jurisdiction of municipalities," he said, and may be a violation of constitutional rights.

A Health Canada spokesman declined comment on the legal questions raised by the Pitt Meadows bylaw, but said the department is "monitoring the situation" and is considering reforms to the access to medical marijuana regulations.

But Victoria city councillor Philippe Lucas said he'd be "amazed" if Health Canada took any action against the Pitt Meadows bylaw, as the department does "as little as possible to meet their constitutional obligations."

He said one million in Canada use medical marijuana, but only 5,000 licences are issued, while in Oregon the same number of licences are issued among 35,000 users.

"We have some significant problems with the bureaucracy," he said.

But Lucas said he has "every confidence that users will challenge these laws" being considered by municipalities.

NewsHawk: MedicalNeed: 420 MAGAZINE
Source:BCLocalNews.com - Local News
Author: Robert Freeman - Chilliwack Progress
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