Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Canada moves closer to legalization?

“Communities will be safer a result, simple as that,” said association president Len Garis. “I congratulate Minister [Leona] Aglukkaq for bringing this forward and for allowing a consultation process to take place in the meantime, with community stakeholders, to help us work to solve our immediate concerns.”

Minister Aglukkaq announced Friday that the federal government will be changing laws for medical marijuana growers

The government is beginning the process immediately by launching public consultations into a list of proposed changes the department has prepared.

Aglukkaq said government is hoping the changes will “reduce the risk of abuse . . . while significantly improving the way program participants access marijuana for medical purposes.”

Among other changes, the move would eliminate individual and private growers. Under the current system, eligible people apply to Health Canada, which then issues the licence.

People in the dispensing community who have been hearing about the impending change say it’s unconstitutional, and removes the rights of medical cannabis patients to produce their own cannabis.

Health Canada’s proposal is based on recent complaints from mayors and councillors across the country who say the current system poses dangers when growers don’t follow local electrical, health and safety bylaws.

At the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference earlier this month, delegates approved a resolution to ask that Health Canada issue licences only to growers who have already received a licence from their respective municipality.

In March, the mayors of two towns in southern British Columbia wrote to Aglukkaq, saying too many licences were floating around, making it impossible for municipalities to know who is licensed and whether those growers are operating safely. The mayors of Langley, B.C., and the Township of Langley, B.C., also wrote that they knew “based on actual cases, that there is significant misuse of many licences and the volume of product produced often exceeds an individual’s personal requirement.”

Late last month, RCMP drug investigators in B.C. arrested three men and seized a helicopter after raiding a Maple Ridge property growing almost seven times more pot than its two medical marijuana licences permitted. The Federal Drug Enforcement Branch found 1,490 plants instead of the 220 permitted by two licences provided by Health Canada to grow medical pot.

— with a file from The Province

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