Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jan 2010
Source: Daily Gleaner (CN NK)
Copyright: 2010 Brunswick News Inc.
Author: Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Safety Issues - Health Canada Not Keeping Tabs On Marijuana

Vancouver - Medical marijuana may be legal, but the way some approved
Canadian growers are producing their pot isn't, say fire chiefs in the
country's two most prolific weed-producing provinces.

More than 3,400 production licences have been issued to grow medical
marijuana across Canada, two-thirds of them in Ontario and British

Fire chiefs associations in those provinces say Health Canada's
secretive permit process and refusal to bring in better regulations
for growers put lives and health at risk.

"There's no instruction manual on how to build a grow op. So they give
you this licence to produce, you know 100 plants or 75 plants, but
they don't tell you how to do it safely," said Jim Jessop, the Niagara
Fall's assistant fire chief who speaks for the Ontario Association of
Fire Chiefs on the issue.

Jessop said he's walked into Health Canada-approved grow operations
where the wiring was bad, volatile chemicals were improperly stored
and, in one instance, a powerful hydroponic light ballast was starting
to char the floor.

"I've actually had to remove children from one of them. It was so
unsafe," he said.

Health Canada has refused to give locations of the grow operations to
fire or police officials, citing privacy concerns.

When the federal agency issues a licence, the grower must abide by all
applicable federal, provincial, territorial and municipal legislation,
such as building codes and electrical hook-ups. The issue of safety
isn't probed on the Health Canada application, although a grower must
give a detailed account on the form of security measures and how they
will protect their crop from loss or theft.

Len Garis, chief of the Surrey, B.C., fire department, said his
firefighters have stumbled upon nine legal grow ops in the city
through the same process used to shut down illegal operations - either
the home was using three times the normal limit of power or police
have been tipped to a potential grow site.

"Four of the nine we disconnected anyway because they had no permit,
the electrical systems were altered and (their system was) so shoddy
that they weren't safe, so we shut them down," said Garis, who's also
the spokesman for the Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia on
the issue of marijuana grow operations.

Both the Ontario and B.C. associations say they've lobbied Health
Canada for help to improve safety.

"We sent a number of briefs to Health Canada, asking them to just do
one simple thing, as a condition of permit, make sure that zoning,
electrical safety, fire safety is all taken into consideration with
these locations, prior to issuing the permit," Garis said.

David Thomas of Health Canada said its inspectors have the authority
to conduct inspections for compliance.

"To conduct these inspections, Health Canada inspectors must have the
occupant's consent to enter the dwelling-place or a warrant issued by
a Justice ..." Thomas said in an email response to questions.

The associations argue allowing the legal operations to be inspected
would be safer for the grower and those around them.

Jessop said he has met with federal government ministers and staff to
explain the problem and ask for help.

"They've acknowledged that there's no process in place to teach people
how to wire these buildings properly, how to vent them properly, how
to make sure they're fire safe," Jessop said.

Trevor Bain, with Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal, said Health
Canada has said keeping the locations secret will prevent legal grow
operations from being raided by criminals trying to steal their marijuana. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D