Pot picture still hazy

In February, fellow Squamish lawmakers nixed a motion by Coun. Bryan Raiser that would have seen the District of Squamish send a strongly worded letter to Ottawa voicing their displeasure over the government’s handling of new Health Canada regulations surrounding the production and distribution of medical marijuana.

Raiser’s motion was to send a letter telling the Feds the district didn’t plan to spend “a cent” to clean up the Health Canada “mess” — in particular the lack of either a process or additional funding to help police ensure the orderly shutdown of operations that, on April 1, were set to become illegal.

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A month later, a federal court ruling granted those licensed to grow pot for their own use a reprieve of sorts, allowing them to continue to do so while the full legal challenge to the new regime plays out in the courts. The Feds have appealed the granting of that injunction.

While all this has been going on, the public has continued to debate the merits of the new Health Canada regime, which ostensibly aims to see large, licensed, commercial growers produce all the pot required by the country’s approximately 38,000 licensed users. Those licensed to use pot for medicinal reasons are to be required to purchase it by mail from those large, licensed growers.

Critics of that set of regulations argue that the system denies Canadians a safe, affordable supply. “Some say they can grow supplies at home for pennies on a gram, while official suppliers licensed by Health Canada charge anywhere from a discounted price of $3 a gram to as much as $13.50,” CBC News reported in March.

As well-intentioned as the new regulations may be, this writer agrees that the new regime is “not well thought out,” in the words of Coun. Patricia Heintzman. It may, in fact, result in many resorting to purchasing their medicine illegally. What’s more, the lack of either a process for shutting down newly “illegal” grow ops, or funding for same, represents a clear-cut case of a senior government downloading responsibilities onto local ones.

B.C. government officials are to be commended for having listened to the voices of municipal ones in deciding that licensed grow ops located on land zoned for industrial uses should be taxed as industrial users, not as farms. If the new Health Canada rules are to serve as a framework for the foreseeable future on this issue, it only makes sense the municipal taxpayers should gain the full benefit — perhaps at least an indirect way to recoup some of those additional policing costs.
— David Burke

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