The mayor of Port Coquitlam, B.C., says that given what’s happened at a legal medical marijuana grow-op in his community, he's glad changes to the federal law are in the works.
Mayor Greg Moore said that the grow-op at a house in the 900-block of Governor Court turned out to have far more plants than it was allowed, but the city wasn't given enough information about the operation in the first place under the current medical marijuana system.
Moore said that when Health Canada or a physician gives out a permit to grow marijuana at a home, they don't have to let the city or the police know.
“So we go in with our public safety inspection team, they hold up their license from Health Canada [that] says ‘We can grow, see you later,” Moore said.
The federal government has announced changes to the medical marijuana system, including a change which means people won't be allowed to grow pot in private homes, but only in commercial properties. The changes do not take effect until March 31, 2014.
It was neighbours who blew the whistle on the Port Coquitlam op, also not knowing it was technically legal.
“We didn't know they had a licence to grow marijuana, and the problem is the smell is awful and it affect everybody,” said one neighbour, who asked to be identified only as Anna.
Moore said the home was inspected in mid-January because neighbours reported tell-tales signs of a grow-op and because the house was using a lot of electricity.
The people living in the home were able to produce three valid growing licences from Health Canada.
'Do Not Occupy' order
But last week, inspectors went in again.
“We found substantially more plants they were allowed to have, so therefore, we've shut it down,” said Moore.
The house has been slapped with a Do Not Occupy Order and neighbours are breathing a little easier, but safety is still top of mind.
“It's not something you want in a residential neighbourhood and it seems kind of strange no one is even given the opportunity to know it's in their neighbourhood,” said area resident Bruno Bonato.
Moore is concerned that there are more licenced growers in the city, hiding behind the anonymity allowed under current regulations.
“We still have from now until next March [when] we don't know where they are in our community -- until neighbours tell us and we go inspect."