With no additional cash or system in place, municipal officials are wondering how they’re expected to deal with Health Canada’s new medical marijuana regulations.
As of April 1, licensed individuals growing medical pot under Ottawa’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) will by asked to throw it out with the kitty litter. Home grow-op licences will be axed, as Health Canada turns production over to approved commercial operators.
That’s got B.C. municipalities fired up. District of Squamish officials have no idea how many individual licensees operate in town. Nor does the municipality have spare change to pay for the transition’s enforcement.
“[Health Canada] are just walking away from that,” Mayor Rob Kirkham said. “There is no funding and no mechanism in place.”
The health agency’s announcement was met with widespread dissatisfaction at a Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting last September, Kirkham said. While Health Canada doesn’t have the jurisdiction to ensure patients scrap their marijuana plants, municipalities have few resources to enforce the cessation.
“We can address it under our nuisance bylaw,” Kirkham said, noting that requires the cooperation of residents who become aware of a medical grow op.
A new B.C. Assessment policy has placed a spanner in municipal taxation. The rule may allow commercial medical marijuana operators to apply for farm status. That would place the facilities in a lower tax bracket.
“It would completely take that whole benefit away from the community,” Kirkham said.
District staff are examining where those operations fit within the municipality’s zoning. Health Canada rules already require that production must occur in a warehouse, have surveillance and control odour.
The district is planning to stage an open house in early February on the subject.
“We are really looking forward to this public information meeting,” Kirkham said.
The new rules are a tough sell, said Dana Larsen, the founding director of the Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary. People aren’t going to throw out their current medicine in order to pay more for it down the road, he said, noting people can grow pot for $1 a gram and Health Canada estimates prices will be around $7. The changes criminalize patients with the stroke of a pen, Larsen said.
MMAR has had its problems, but Ottawa could have dealt with it in a better manner, Larsen said. The approximate 38,000 Canadians who entered the system in good faith are now paying the price, he added, noting ultimately they’re easier to uncover than illegal growers because of the registrar.
The whole transition places the RCMP in a difficult position, Coun. Bryan Raiser said. Health Canada only provides police with names when officers are about to execute a search warrant. Warrants take time, which costs taxpayers money, Raiser said.
“Health Canada totally screwed over the RCMP,” he said.
To keep cash in all levels of government’s piggy banks, Ottawa should legalize marijuana, he said.
“I don’t want a single property-tax penny going to the Health Canada issue,” he said. “The federal government has to take responsibility. They are spending billions of federal tax dollars only because of their ideological stance.”
Health Canada will provide guidance to current program participants so they are aware of their responsibilities with regards to disposing of their dried marihuana and plants, Health Canada spokesperson Sean Upton stated in an email. The agency expects participants to comply with federal laws, as well as provincial and municipal bylaws and remediation requirements, he noted.
Under the current system, to inspect a private dwelling, a Health Canada inspector must obtain consent before entering the home. When the individual medical pot licences are repealed on March 31, cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes in private dwellings will be prohibited, and Health Canada will no longer have the legislative authority to request the inspection of private dwellings, Upton stated.