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We're Way Higher

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"We're Way Higher"...Than the B.C. Average When It Comes to Legally Producing Pot For Medical Purposes.

Chilliwack residents are more than three times more likely than the average British Columbian to be licenced to grow or possess medical marijuana, according to Health Canada numbers obtained by the Times.

According to the figures, which were released after an Access to Information request, 193 Chilliwack residents are licenced to produce marijuana for medical purposes and 238 people are licenced to possess it for medical reasons.

That's more than three times more than the provincial rates for medical marijuana growing and possession. There are 3,831 licenced growers and 4,608 licenced users in all of British Columbia. That translates to 84.9 growers and 102.1 users per 100,000 people. But Chilliwack, with a population of 69,217 people, has 278.8 growers and 343.8 users per 100,000 residents.

By comparison, Abbotsford, which has 50,000 more people than Chilliwack, has just 122 licenced growers and 131 licenced users. Those numbers are in line with the provincial average.

For several years, Mayor Sharon Gaetz has been outspoken about the prevalence of medical marijuana grow ops in Chilliwack and has often questioned their legitimacy. But while staff had told her that they believed there were hundreds of medical marijuana grow ops in the city, she told the Times the city did not have specific numbers.

Gaetz says the Health Canada numbers show the city has a right to be concerned about the prevalence of medical grow ops. And she said the numbers are evidence not all medical marijuana grow-ops are law-abiding.

"I think it confirms our suspicion that the grow-ops are not entirely legitimate."

Gaetz speculated the operators of formerly illegal grow-ops have acquired medical marijuana licences in order to legitimize their business. She said city inspectors recently visited a medical marijuana grow op with 120 lights and the legal ability to produce 78,000 joints.

"Obviously, no one person can smoke 78,000 joints in a year," she said.

And she was alarmed by the high-average rate of medical possession licences city.

"We can't have that many more sick people in Chilliwack."

But a local doctor who prescribes pot to patients said the number of licenced medical marijuana users is being kept artificially low in Chilliwack and elsewhere because physicians are scared of the impact doing so could have on their careers.

Dr. Gwyllyn Godard said he believes thousands of people who use marijuana to alleviate medical problems do so illegally because they don't have access to a prescribing doctor.

Godard said doctors are afraid of being targeted by medical marijuana opponents and having their licences revoked.

"The thing any physician is scared of, everywhere in Canada, is loss of their licences," he said.

While speaking to the Times, Godard said he was wary about quantifying the number of marijuana prescriptions he has written, but previously he told CBC that it exceeded 100. He did tell the Times that his client list included RCMP members, veterans and even "high-level city employees."

Godard is a member of Stop The Violence BC, an anti-pot-prohibition advocacy group comprising academics, physicians and lawyers whose work was endorsed in November by a quartet of former Vancouver mayors.

While the City of Chilliwack and Gaetz have long focused on the risks they say are associated with the production of marijuana in homes, Godard said efforts to limit homegrown medical pot inevitably stem from the antipathy towards marijuana among conservatives.

Gaetz has been at the fore of a push to get Health Canada, which regulates medical marijuana, to revise regulations on where plants can legally be grown.

Godard is wary about such laws and said people should be allowed to grow a "few plants" for personal use. But he did agree marijuana probably shouldn't be grown on a large scale in homes.

"I think if they're going to do large-scale production, like designated growing for other people, that should maybe be done in commercial facilities."


News Hawk - 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: Chilliwack, B.C.
Source: Chilliwack Times
Author: Tyler Olsen
Contact: editorial@chilliwacktimes.com
Copyright: 2012 Chilliwack Times
Website: Chilliwack Times
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