Pubdate: Fri, 14 Apr 2017
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


Health authority prepared to start fining pot shops

Dr. Richard Stanwick has received a lot of angry emails as of

Some have told him to butt out of the marijuana edible business.
Others have challenged the right for the health authority to enforce
legislation on pot shops selling the products.

As the chief medical health officer for Island Health, Stanwick has
tried to explain that the health authority has an obligation to
respond to complaints from the public. So far Island Health has
received three complaints about marijuana edibles sold at pot shops in
the region. The most recent came Monday after someone got sick.

"People get angry at us because they assume because it's for sale as a
product on a store shelf that in fact the food premise regulations are
being enforced. The issue is we don't know where the marijuana is
coming from," said Stanwick, noting federal testing has found some
marijuana edibles laced with pesticides.

"It's not picking on them (pot shops). It's just the fact that at this
stage, they are selling illegal product that police have not decided
to act against. It doesn't mean if they have a product that is posing
a risk to the public that we won't act."

A complaint last year sparked health officials to approach the City of
Victoria, which was in the process of developing regulations for the
nearly 40 dispensaries operating without a business license in the
city. Officials provided advice to the city regarding the distribution
of marijuana edibles (such as baked goods, chocolate, tea or gummies
infused with marijuana or marijuana oils) following consultations with
lawyers for Island Health and the province.

According to Stanwick, Island Health is not objecting to another form
of marijuana being sold at dispensaries; it's when they take that
additional step and add it as an ingredient to a food product that it
becomes a concern and runs afoul of the province's food

The regulations require every operator of a food premises to ensure
that all food is obtained from a source approved by the federal and
provincial government. Under current regulatory framework in Canada,
marijuana cannot be legally sourced for sale to the public. The
federal government, however, is expected to table cannabis legislation
any day.

Stanwick isn't aware of any facility authorized to prepare, sell or
distribute marijuana edibles to the public and noted dispensaries in
Vancouver also aren't permitted to sell edibles as a condition of
their business license, but some continue to ignore the rules.

Island Health has inspected some dispensaries in the region reported
to be selling edibles and requested the products be removed for sale
or distribution. Other dispensaries have also been contacted and made
aware of the food premises regulations, and a second letter was
recently issued, noting noncompliance may impede the issuance of a
business licence.

Now, Stanwick said Island Health has the right to start issuing
tickets for those who refuse to comply and they could eventually wind
up in court.

In response, the lawyer representing several dispensaries in the area
stated in a letter to Island Health that the use of medical cannabis
edibles has been approved by the federal government and prohibition of
non-dried forms of medical marijuana "limits liberty and security of
the person in a manner that is arbitrary."

"Preventing medical cannabis patients who access edible products from
dispensaries from doing so will cause harm to health," states the
letter, noting many patients rely on access to marijuana edibles at
dispensaries, (which are regularly tested and of known potency and
quality) as a critical component of their overall health.

"Forcing critically and chronically ill patients to attempt to make
their own edible products rather than obtaining those of known quality
and potency undermines their health, detracts from their quality of
life and creates safety risks that do not currently exist in our manifest."

Stanwick noted those who use medical marijuana, but don't want to
smoke it, still have the option of purchasing oil from a dispensary
and making their own baked goods at home.

In the meantime, the major focus for health officials is educating the
public so they know what they're taking once marijuana becomes legal
in Canada, and highlighting the fact that edibles are associated with
increased risk to children without child proof packaging.
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