Mayors crank up heat on medical pot

Federal lobby group wants Health Canada to require local permits.

A federal lobby group will press Health Canada to better regulate the production of medical marijuana.

Since 2003, people with certain medical conditions – such as glaucoma, spinal cord injury, pain or nausea from cancer or HIV and epileptic seizures – have been allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Others, who obtained federal licences, have been allowed to grow pot in their home to supply it to those who need it for medical reasons.

The City of Surrey forwarded a resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) this month asking Health Canada to require applicants for growing medical pot to first obtain municipal permits.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said Tuesday the initiative was passed both by the Big City Mayors Conference and the FCM.

“We’re not debating anything other than if you have a licence, make sure that it’s safe, and it’s grown in a safe way… and in a safe area,” Watts said.

The passage of the FCM resolution comes days after the City of Surrey endorsed the creation of a bylaw requiring municipal permits for those growing or using medical marijuana.

And those who grow it will have to do so in agriculturally zoned areas.

Critics have said Surrey has no business prying into the private medical business of people using a federally sanctioned drug.

Watts said it’s got nothing to do with identifying users.

“We don’t care who’s using it,” Watts said. “I don’t want to know who’s smoking it. I don’t care if you’re smoking it.”

The FCM resolution and the upcoming Surrey bylaw is about making neighbourhoods safer, Watts said.

Critics of this city’s position also say Surrey has enough bad guys to chase without worrying about legitimate marijuana users.

“We can’t differentiate right now (between licensed and illegal grows),” Watts said. “So we’re wasting a lot of police resources because we don’t know that they’ve got a licence.”

Watts said that ultimately it would be better if Health Canada grew the marijuana at their own facilities and distributed it through pharmacies, just like any other drug.

Watts said its her understanding Health Canada has some answers to the cities’ concerns that will be introduced soon.

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