Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jul 2010
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2010 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rod Mickleburgh
Cited: Pitt Meadows
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)

Ban-Happy Town Targets Medicinal Marijuana

Pitt Meadows Mayor Says B.C. Community Tired of Grow-Op Houses 
Burning Down and Threatening Homes

The bucolic Fraser Valley community of Pitt Meadows may be the 
ban-happy capital of Canada.

The list of outlawed activities in a place where Ipsos Reid found 98 
per cent of residents pleased with their quality of life is long and wide.

Be gone massage parlours, X-rated video stores, strip joints, 
hydroponic retail outlets, nuclear power plants, used car lots, and 
even giant advertising icons perched on top of buildings. Existing 
municipal bylaws ban them all.

Now, in a move considered a first in Canada, the municipality is set 
to add yet another activity banned within its borders - the 
production of marijuana for medical purposes.

"We are just saying 'no'," Pitt Meadows' veteran mayor Don MacLean said Monday.

Mr. MacLean said the proposed bylaw change is likely to pass 
unanimously at this evening's council meeting, notwithstanding the 
fact that production of cannabis for medicinal purposes is legal, 
when sanctioned by Health Canada.

"Health Canada does not control our zoning bylaws, and under this 
proposed bylaw, the growing of medical marijuana will be not be a 
permitted use in Pitt Meadows," the mayor declared.

Mr. MacLean said it is too difficult to determine which marijuana 
production facilities are legal and which are not, so they are 
banning them all.

The bylaw is not aimed at individuals growing a few marijuana plants 
for their own sanctioned medicinal use, he said, but at third-party 
operations that sell marijuana to patients who don't grow their own.

It's a safety issue, Mr. MacLean insisted.

"We are tired of grow-op houses burning down in our community and 
threatening the homes of their neighbours. We had two fires last 
year. People don't feel safe. They're saying to us: 'What are you 
doing about it?'"

At the same time, some growers abuse their medical marijuana 
licences, the mayor said, pointing to a recent swoop by police in 
neighbouring Maple Ridge that discovered more than 1,500 marijuana 
plants in an operation sanctioned to grow only 73.

Marijuana activists vowed an all-out fight against the bylaw.

"I think it is absolutely immoral and unconscionable to discriminate 
against Canadians who are chronically ill and who will benefit from 
cannabis," said Vancouver lawyer Kirk Tousaw, executive director of 
the Beyond Prohibition Foundation.

"This bylaw can be challenged and it will be challenged."

Mr. Tousaw said Canadians have had the legal right to access 
marijuana to ease suffering from medical conditions for the past 
decade. "We can't allow sick people's rights to be abridged like 
this, born out of baseless fears."

He said measures such as those contemplated by Pitt Meadows will 
merely drive people growing medical marijuana underground. "It's the 
old prohibition thinking. If you drive something underground, it will 
go away. Actually, it just makes the situation worse and more risky."

Mr. Tousaw said he had never heard of such a municipal restriction before.

Meanwhile, Mr. MacLean said residents are comfortable with the town's 
many restrictions. "Not one of my citizens has said to me: 'Don, 
you're out of line here.'"

Used car lots? "We decided that [used car salesmen with checked 
polyester was a 'no no'. Have you ever been down one of those streets 
lined with places like 'Zebra Auto Sales'?' My favourite is 'cars from Mars.'"

And the outdoor icon ban? "We don't like big coffee cups on top of 
Tim Hortons," the mayor said. He added: "No pit bulls, either."
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