Pubdate: Sat, 29 Dec 2012
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Times Colonist
Author: Bill Cleverley
Note: with files from Postmedia News


Local municipal officials are welcoming proposed changes in federal
legislation surrounding the production of medical marijuana.

Both the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Union of B.C.
Municipalities have raised concerns about illegal grow-ops being
converted to medical grow operations, said Victoria Coun. Chris
Coleman, who sits on the federal group's board.

The proposed changes - Health Canada plans to take itself out of the
production and distribution of the substance and open up the
commercial market to companies that meet "strict security
requirements" - appear to address that concern. Production of the
substance would no longer be allowed in private homes.

"I think the municipalities will applaud it," Coleman said, noting
that there has been tension between the municipal and federal levels
of government over the issue, and concerns that medical growing
licences were being used to mask illegal operations.

"Because the information wasn't shared, particularly with the police
resources, they would go in and bust a place and then find out it was
licensed," Coleman said. "But they couldn't tell what sort of volume
it was licensed for. So the medical licensing was just some camouflage
covering a much larger operation."

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq echoed those concerns.

"Current medical marijuana regulations have left the system open to
abuse," she said in a statement on Dec. 16.

"We have heard real concerns from law enforcement, fire officials and
municipalities about how people are hiding behind these rules to
conduct illegal activity, and putting health and safety of Canadians
at risk. These changes will make it far more difficult for people to
game the system."

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has also come out in support
of the proposals, saying the new approach "clarifies the rights and
responsibilities of the producer, protects community safety, and
supports our police and emergency services."

But Philippe Lucas, co-founder of Canadians for Safe Access, Canada's
oldest medical cannabis patients' rights group, said the proposed
changes could price some users out of the market.

"Patients who currently have the know-how and have spent money on
equipment to be able to produce their own cannabis and source strains
they find effective for their own conditions are no longer able to
benefit them from personal production," he said.

"That's going to lead, potentially, to significant cost increases for

The changes, scheduled to take effect March 31, 2014, aim to treat
marijuana like any other narcotic used for medical purposes - patients
can purchase the appropriate amount from a licensed vendor as long as
they have a signed medical document, similar to a prescription, from a
health care practitioner.

Potential growers must demonstrate appropriate training; have an
indoor restricted-access production site not in a private dwelling
that is controlled at all times and includes 24/7 visual monitoring
systems and an intrusion detection system; and have provided a written
notification of their application to the local police force, local
fire authority and local government.

In an attempt to "strike a balance between patient access and public
safety," Aglukkaq has announced doctors will be able to sign a
document similar to a prescription for medical marijuana. The new
process would replace the 33-page application form that doctors used
to have to fill out.

Lucas said it was a welcome change. "This will kind of normalize the
prescription of medical cannabis."

- - With files from Postmedia News 
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