Planned changes to the nation's medicinal marijuana industry are being welcomed by the Nanaimo RCMP and municipal officials.
Const. Gary O'Brien said there are many advantages, from a local law-enforcement perspective, to the city of Nanaimo's recent decision to limit legal pot production to a handful of areas in Nanaimo. The city's bylaw amendments to contain medicinal marijuana growing operations to industrial areas, including Duke Point, and a number of rural areas in Nanaimo are intended to accommodate a move by Health Canada to hand off pot distribution to licensed providers by April 1, 2014.
O'Brien said the fact that the days of legal residential grow operations could soon be coming to an end means that the job of the police, as well as the city, to monitor legal grow-ops will become significantly easier. It could also mean less security and health concerns in the neighbourhoods where residential grow-ops currently exist. He said it has always been extremely difficult for the RCMP to effectively deal with many grow-ops in the area for some time because there has been no monitoring of the legal ones by Health Canada. O'Brien said that years ago, before Health Canada began allowing legal medicinal grow-ops, it was estimated that there were approximately 300 illegal grow-ops in Nanaimo, but he expects that number has increased significantly with the new federal rules.
He said the local police have never been informed by Health Canada on where they have allowed licences to grow pot in any jurisdiction across Canada, citing privacy issues.
"We have had several occasions when we mobilized from four to six of our officers to search a residence that was reported to have an illegal grow-op only to discover that they have been licensed by Health Canada," O'Brien said. "In fact, in recent years, up to 80 per cent of the information we've received on grow-ops in the community have turned out to be legal growers. But we have discovered that, in many cases, our searches have revealed that the Health Canada licences have been abused by the legal growers, including growing more plants than allowed by the licence and shared licences."
Since the federal government announced changes to its medicinal marijuana laws in June, the city has been working to enact bylaws to better control the industry.
The new bylaw will limit medical marijuana production to a number of industrial areas, including Duke Point, as well a some agricultural/residential areas like the Millstone Valley, Brannen Lake and the Jingle Pot/Westwood area.
Andrew Tucker, Nanaimo's director of planning, agreed that limiting legal grow-ops to these areas should allow easier access and monitoring to ensure the growers are following the rules, as well as deal with problems in neighbourhoods, including crime, health and structural concerns around mold and other issues, where many growers have established operations.
"But it still remains to be seen how effective the new bylaws will be," Tucker acknowledged.
O'Brien said those problems have been a concern to local authorities for some time.
He said many grow-op owners do the electrical wiring themselves to save money, which raises the risk of fires, and the odour from them is proving to have health impacts on many of their neighbours.
O'Brien also said home invasions have become a problem with grow-ops in residential neighbourhoods, in which intruders with weapons tie up the residents and steal the pot and any cash available.
"By only allowing them in certain areas, I believe it will make a big difference in that we can better monitor who has the licences and how many plants they can grow. But I'm sure we'll also have to deal with many secondary issues as well, including attempted thefts from these sites."
RBarron@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4234 " We want to hear from you.
Send comments on this story to email@example.com. Letters must include daytime phone number and hometown.
© Copyright 2013