Mayor Ted Adlem believes there will be hundreds of illegal marijuana grow operations in Mission next year when the federal government phases out individual medical pot licences.
“It’s our biggest issue,” said Adlem, as he prepares for the week-long Union of B.C. Municipalities convention from Sept. 16-20 where he will meet with his counterparts and provincial government representatives.
Earlier this year, Ottawa announced plans to eliminate home licences, and instead have medical pot grown and distributed by highly regulated, secure commercial operators. The plan is expected to be launched in April 2014.
“As I see it, the federal government’s idea of transition is that all these nice people currently with licences are going to quit and transition into the new system where you’ll have it mailed to you,” said Adlem. “I don’t think that will happen.”
Municipalities will be left with the responsibility to clean it up, Adlem predicted, noting the addresses of current licensed growers are confidential and only the feds have that information.
“They won’t provide the information to municipalities or law enforcement,” noted Adlem, adding the only way police find out if there is a licensed grow at a property is when they discover it, then research it. So far, Ottawa has not shown an interest in policing the program.
According to numbers provided by the district earlier this year, Mission has between 700 to 800 licensed marijuana grow operations. Adlem, along with councillors Dave Hensman, Tony Luck and Nelson Tilbury, who are also attending the conference, will ask the provincial government to lobby on behalf of B.C. municipalities for the federal government to take responsibility for the costs associated with changing the program.
Mission’s chief administrative officer Ken Bjorgaard will also be attending UBCM.
“Municipalities and the provincial government didn’t create this,” reasoned Adlem. “We shouldn’t have to pay for changing the system.”
Adlem will be meeting with B.C.’s minister of justice and attorney general Suzanne Anton to discuss the issue.
Mission RCMP Insp. Richard Konarski agrees there will be a lot of uncertainty, and notes it’s a challenge every community in Canada will face.
Other issues Adlem and Mission councillors will be addressing with provincial representatives are upgrading Florence Lake Service Road on the west side of Stave Lake, and turning N. Railway Avenue into the official provincial highway through Mission, while handing First Avenue back to the district.
The province has already committed $5 million towards road improvements on the west side of Stave Lake, but Mission hasn’t received any funding yet.
It needs to get on the budget radar soon, so the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation can open its camp at the former Boulder Bay youth correction camp in 2017, said Adlem.
The gravel road is in good shape up to the Zajac Ranch, but the 12 kilometres of road north of that needs to be improved.
There’s a large hill and constant washouts, explained Adlem, who noted the section of road on the west side of Sayers Lake needs to be re-routed to the east side.
Taking highway traffic off First Avenue is critical to Mission’s downtown revitalization plan as it would eliminate the bottleneck at First Avenue and Murray Street and save commuters time.
“We’re getting good cooperation so far and want it in place for 2014,” stated the Mission mayor.
About 2,000 delegates from 196 B.C. communities are expected to attend UBCM convention in Vancouver this year. There will be key speakers and workshops as well as private meetings for local politicians to take part in. This year’s theme is Navigating the Local Landscape.