Pubdate: Wed, 28 Sep 2016
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Authors: Laura Barton and Allan Benner,
Page: A1


Port Colborne will ask Health Canada to revoke licences to grow
medical marijuana at a greenhouse on Pinecrest Road, in the wake of
last week's armed robbery there when two people were held at gunpoint.

Niagara Regional Police reported last week that while searching the
property, officers found 3,400 plants growing in the greenhouse.

That's about 3,000 plants - worth $1.5 million - more than the
facility was permitted to produce through the three licences it was
operating under.

Port Colborne Mayor John Maloney feels that should be grounds for
Health Canada to revoke the licences.

"We're certainly advocating that their permission for growing the
substance should be revoked, and end of story. That's what we're
pressing the minister for, as well as Parliament," Maloney said in an
interview Tuesday.

At Monday's Port Colborne city council meeting, Ward 4 Coun. Ron
Bodner asked staff to look at ways to prevent the same sort of
problems from occurring in the future.

Bodner called the robbery a "traumatic event," and a "big deal" for
the usually quiet rural neighbourhood.

"My friends and neighbours out there had six armed police officers
running across their deck very early in the morning. You know, it
looked like a movie set if it wasn't happening right on your
property," he said.

"It was pretty damn scary for a lot of people."

Bodner said the report should look into ways to ensure problems of
that type do not happen again.

"I know everyone is limited to what they can do, but this is a time
when this is front and centre, it's highlighted," he said. "We don't
want this in our community. People with guns, robbing this place. It's
just totally not acceptable … We need to know if we have any, any
control over this."

He said he has heard the facility - formerly operated as Muileboom
Greenhouses, a business that grew cucumbers and tomatoes - has since
been cleaned out and is dark. He hopes to learn through the city
report if it will be permitted to reopen.

Councillors also heard from resident Kerry Fallon, whose Firelane 2
property abuts the greenhouse site.

Fallon urged council to "send a message to Health Canada, because if
we don't get this medical marijuana under control, how are we ever
going to deal with recreational marijuana?"

"It's not just our problem. This is a problem with our municipality,
our region, Ontario, Canada. These renegades are under licences that
are grandfathered," he said, while crediting emergency workers for
their prompt response that led to the arrest of five of 10 suspects
involved in the heist.

Although police reported last week more arrests were pending, Const.
Virginia Moir said Tuesday no new information is being released at
this time due to concerns about compromising the investigation.

In the wake of last week's robbery, The Tribune asked Health Canada
about regulations for medical marijuana production, such as how
frequently sites are inspected and security system

Although those questions went unanswered, Health Canada media
relations officer Andre Gagnon responded with an e-mail Monday saying
registered or licensed growers "must abide by the law."

"This means that they must respect their established plant, storage
and possession limits at all times. These limits are all tied to the
individual's medical need for cannabis" as prescribed by a health-care
practitioner, Gagnon wrote.

"Individuals are only authorized to produce and possess for their own
medical purposes, and it is illegal for them to share or provide or
sell what they have produced to anyone else."

Growers also "need to comply with all relevant provincial/territorial
and municipal laws, including local bylaws about zoning, electrical
and fire safety as well as all related inspection and remediation
requirements," he wrote.

To assist police, Health Canada provides a dedicated 24/7 phone line
allowing officers to confirm specific individuals are authorized to
possess or produce limited amounts of cannabis for medical purposes.

Maloney said the City of Port Colborne has also been trying to obtain
information from Health Canada about the oversight of licensed
marijuana production facilities, like the greenhouse on Pinecrest Road.

"We assumed, as most people did, that they are regulated in some way,"
Maloney said.

"The question is, how often? Nobody is giving us that

He said Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey is assisting the city in its
efforts, but "the more we get into this the murkier it becomes."

In his e-mail, Gagnon said Health Canada has taken measures to keep
Canadians informed about the rules and responsibilities regarding
medical marijuana, including posting guidelines at the website.

One of the guidelines reads: "You may want to consider installing
strong locks on the doors to all areas where you produce or store
cannabis and/or installing a home monitoring or alarm system."

Maloney laughed about the wording of that guideline.

"It's crazy," he said.

Rather than advising people they "may want to consider" installing
security devises, Maloney said "it should be a direct regulation and
restriction, so this type of situation doesn't happen."

He said it's apparent that regulations concerning medical marijuana
need to be strengthened.

For now, he said, Port Colborne wants "the right for these individuals
to grow this product terminated."

Police reported last week that although five suspects were arrested
following the robbery, they believe five more are still at large and
could be armed.
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