From left

From left

Changes to pot legislation raise concerns

RCMP, city councillor share concerns at South Surrey business event

Members of Surrey’s business community gathered Tuesday morning to discuss crime issues and prevention strategies with representatives from the city and local police.

But the topic of medical marijuana dominated most of the hour-long session, as officials from the Surrey RCMP and the City of Surrey shared their concerns on upcoming changes to pot legislation.

Organized by the Surrey Board of Trade and the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, the Campbell Heights Crime Prevention breakfast quickly focused on changes to federal medical-marijuana legislation, coming into effect in April 2014.

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy told the crowd gathered at Atlas Logistics, 2755 190 St., that the new rules may have adverse effects on the community, including homeowners who purchase a property that used to house a former grow-up.

“On April 1, 2014, when it moves to the commercial production, (the growers) are not required to inform us where they were,” he said. “So we have to have confidence that they will terminate or will not make a profit off of what is now an illegal operation.

“On the other side, if they sell that house and move, there is a chance that the perspective purchaser will not know that it was used in that capacity, and there could potential be safety issues or health issues.”

According to Fordy, there could be as many as 2,000 medical marijuana-growing facilities in the community, none of which are required to report to the RCMP or the city.

It will be much the same with the new legislation, he added.

“The RCMP’s role in that, is that if someone wants to establish a commercial facility, they would have to come in and get a criminal record check, and then we would forward that to Ottawa,” he said. “That would be the extent of our engagement. We’re not being asked for our commentary on that, just if there is a pre-existing criminal record.”

Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode echoed Fordy’s concern on the lack of information provided to officials on properties that used to house residential grow-ops.

“People will be going into these homes and not knowing and finding out there are very serious safety risks about who might be coming around the house, and very serious health implications with the chemicals and the type of fungus nurtured in those very warm climates,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the city, she said there are ongoing attempts to have the government release addresses of previous residential grow-ups, but noted that were not prepared to do so yet. She added that in anticipation of the legislation changes a bylaw was created that states marijuana can only be grown in very specific industrial sites.

“We made a separate zoning for that,” she said, noting that residents living close to wear a industrial marijuana grow-op is proposed would have a chance to speak at a public hearing.

Other topics at the forum included finding ways to manage the growing mental-health issues that strain police resources, as well as casinos and creating a email notification system that all small businesses in the community could use to notify colleagues of suspicious activity in the area.