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Two medical grow ops shut down; mayors want accountability

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A couple of medical marijuana grow ops in the Lower Mainland have been shut down in less than a week for producing way more pot plants than their licences allowed.

The homes are located in Abbotsford and Port Coquitlam, but Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender says it’s a problem all over the Lower Mainland.

“We have got to stop this silliness,” says Fassbender.

“The travesty of it now is we have people who are taking full advantage of it and doing illegal operations. The problem is we don’t even know where the licences are, so there are no inspections and our police departments and our fire departments have no idea where they are. That is so silly.”

The federal government is bringing in a new law in March of next year that will ban people from growing medical marijuana in their own homes.

Police, fire departments, and several mayors from the Lower Mainland applaud the move, but licenced growers fear it will cause marijuana prices to skyrocket.

“What this is going to do is leave a lot of ill and suffering Canadians without much needed medication,” argues Mik Mann, who has a licence for a small grow operation in the basement of his home in Port Alberni.

“The very reason the government brought these changes on was for safety, but the simplest thing to make things safe would be for the government to ask me for an updated electrical inspection each year when I renew my permit. As far as people abusing the system goes, we have something in place for that already. They’re called the police.”

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis acknowledges an electrical inspection would help address some of the fire risks grow ops can pose, but says that’s only part of the problem.

“That’s one of the safety issues, and that individual’s comments are well received, but there are also alterations that take place to the home,” he says. “When the grow operation has ceased, there still needs to be some kind assessment that is done to ensure the building is not contaminated with mold, herbicides and pesticides.”

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts agrees that medical marijuana shouldn’t be grown in residential areas.

“With the lack of regulations and no input from the city, we’ve seen grow-ops spring up in neighbourhoods. There’s no ventilation, there’s no fire protection, and it’s a safety issue for sure,” she tells News1130.

“With Health Canada finally coming forward with some changes, we are very happy. However, because there weren’t any in place, we’ve had to deal with some significant issues in the city,” she adds.

BC saw a huge spike in licences issued by Health Canada last year.

On December 31, 2012 there were roughly 9,300 people who were licenced to possess pot in the province. That number jumped to 13,000 by the end of the year.

The number of licences to grow pot also shot up, from about 3,000 to 4,900, over the same period.

Mann believes if people are banned from growing medical marijuana in their homes legally, they’ll be forced to set up illegal grow ops. “For me, personally, it will come back to doing it the old-fashioned way when we used to go out to the bush and grow it outdoors.”

The federal government is accepting feedback on what can be done to improve Canada’s rules on medical marijuana until the end of February.