Lisa Van Vliet

Lisa Van Vliet

Health Canada weeds out problems

New regulations for medical marijuana growers will make infractions easy to identify

The days are numbered for residential medical marijuana cultivation.

And a Health Canada spokesperson says that, come April 1, licensed marijuana-growing operations will be “a lot easier to deal with” on a local level.

In response to a Peace Arch News story in which a Marine Drive resident raised concerns about a neighbour’s licensed growing operation, Health Canada media relations officer Sara Lauer confirmed that after current licences expire in March 2014, all licensees will be commercial, rather than residential growers.

“That will make the whole system much more clear to individuals and (local) authorities,” she said.

Even under existing regulations, she said, growers licensed by Health Canada are expected to “comply fully with all applicable federal, provincial, territorial or municipal legislation.

“Any activities undertaken by licensed individuals who disregard these licence requirements may be subject to law enforcement measures under applicable legislation.”

Earlier this week, White Rock resident Lisa Van Vliet questioned whether the licensed growing operation next to her home meets Health Canada regulations, based on upkeep of the property, an intrusive odour of marijuana and comings and goings that provoked suspicions in the neighbourhood.

While Lauer said she can’t speak to individual cases, it’s likely that any infractions noted at a licensed operation by law enforcement officers would also be passed on to Health Canada, which uses a “risk-based” approach to monitor compliance with the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.

Inspectors for Health Canada’s Controlled Substances Program currently conduct “approximately 180 inspections on regulated parties per year for all controlled substances and precursor chemicals,” she said.

New regulations published in June, which come into effect next April, are even more stringent, she said.

They will require licensed producers to meet extensive security and quality control requirements aimed at ensuring public safety as well as product quality.

“The regulations aim to treat marijuana, to the extent possible, like any other narcotic used for medicinal purposes, by creating conditions for a new, commercial industry that would produce and distribute dried marijuana,” she said.

As part of the application process, she said, potential producers will have to demonstrate that sites meet regulation requirements – including physical security for cultivation and storage areas.

For an operation to receive a licence, the site will have to undergo a pre-licence inspection, and comply with all provincial and municipal legislation and regulations for businesses, Lauer added.

Health Canada would also be keeping an eye on licensed producers through regular audits and government inspections, and they would be subject to “compliance and enforcement measures.”