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Council wants feds to step up enforcement

As the debate around the production and use of medical marijuana continues to smoulder across Canadian communities, the District of Mission is making a plea to the federal government to extinguish the growing number of grow-ops that are taking hold inside its borders.

Mayor Ted Adlem said he's hoping a letter sent to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq will put pressure on the government to live up to its obligations to monitor and control medical marijuana grow-ups. The letter was published in the Jan. 17, 2013 edition of The Mission Record. In the correspondence, Adlem points out there are an "exceptionally high number" of personal-use and designated production licences for medical marijuana within Mission.

"The federal legislation suggested they would be doing inspections and they have one inspector for Western Canada,"  said the mayor to council last Monday night.  "What we're expecting is that they hire a few more inspectors and actually do their job and inspect."

He said the lack of inspections makes a mockery of the government's approach on the issue and causes safety risks to neighbourhoods housing the grow-ops.

As the current legislation stands, patients can apply to Health Canada to take part in the Marijuana Medical Access Program. If accepted, patients can then purchase their pot from a government producer or grow at home.

However, new regulations set in place by Aglukkaq in mid-December have changed the guidelines. Patients will no longer apply to Health Canada for medical marijuana, and home production is being phased out. Marijuana production will be handed over to private producers.

Under the new rules, only facilities that meet "strict security requirements" will be able to produce marijuana for medical purposes, says the Health Canada website. It's hoping this will make it easier for municipalities to pass zoning bylaws forcing the production outside of residential areas.

The new plans are set to be in place by the end of March 2014.

Adlem said until the federal government gets serious about the issue, changing the legislation will have little effect on what's happening now.

Adlem added as far as the district is concerned, staff will monitor the commercial bylaws to ensure any grow-ops that set up in Mission will do so under strict guidelines.

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