Fellow Squamish councillors this week put the kibosh on a colleague’s plan to tell the federal government they didn’t plan to spend a cent enforcing new Health Canada medical marijuana regulations when they take effect this spring.
Mayor Rob Kirkham and the rest of council, meeting as Committee of the Whole on Tuesday (Feb. 11), voiced sympathy for the position taken by Coun. Bryan Raiser. Others, though, didn’t feel his motion — to send a letter to Ottawa saying Squamish wouldn’t spend money “cleaning up the federal government’s Health Canada medical marijuana mess” — contained the level of detail needed under the circumstances.
On April 1, a new federal law restricting the production of medical marijuana to a few large, commercial producers is set to take effect. After that date, marijuana grow operators now licensed to grow for their personal use will be illegal — required instead to purchase it from legal dispensaries.
The new regulations apply to tens of thousands of growers nationwide — no doubt including dozens in Squamish. The new rules, though, did not come with extra money to inspect and shut down the small operators, leaving it to local governments to fend for themselves, including paying the extra policing costs associated with the process.
Municipal leaders across the country have voiced their displeasure over the situation. Raiser had joined the chorus previously, but this week, he put his discordant song in the form of a motion during a presentation to council by RCMP Insp. Neil Cross and Staff Sgt. Brian Cumming.
The motion would have seen Kirkham send a letter to Ottawa declaring that the district did not plan to allocate tax dollars to the enforcement effort.
“We should not have to pay for this. Health Canada should have to pay to clean up this mess,” Raiser said.
Coun. Ron Sander said he couldn’t support the motion because “it doesn’t make any sort of logical sense for what we’re trying to clean up. If you’re going to write a letter, I think you have to do a better job defining what you’re talking about.”
Coun. Patricia Heintzman, who estimated there are “hundreds” of medical pot grow operations in the community, called the federal government’s actions on the issue to date “downloading” responsibilities onto local governments. But she agreed that the issue needed to be more clearly spelled out before such a letter could be sent.
Raiser eventually withdrew his motion.
Cumming, the Squamish detachment head, said RCMP officials have been talking to the Feds about how such cases are to be enforced. “We’ll get back to you with that answer when we get it,” he said.