White Rock has passed bylaw amendments that prohibit medical-marijuana operations.

White Rock has passed bylaw amendments that prohibit medical-marijuana operations.

White Rock ‘reluctantly’ cracks down on medical-marijuana grow-ops

RCMP say they'll focus on organized-crime – not medicinal – operations, as city bans pot cultivation, storage.

White Rock council has finalized amendments that prohibit medical-marijuana operations in the city.

Following a brief discussion Monday night, council unanimously supported (with Coun. Larry Robinson absent) giving third and final readings to changes proposed for omnibus Bylaw 2000.

But the decision appeared to be a reluctant one.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin’s call for a motion on the amendments was initially met with silence. Then, the recommendation was quietly moved by Coun. Bill Lawrence.

When there was no response to Baldwin’s call for a seconder on the motion, the mayor himself answered that call.

Similar silence – and awkward glances – followed Baldwin’s call for shows of support and opposition. With no opposition expressed, the motion was deemed to receive unanimous support.

Tuesday, Coun. Helen Fathers attributed the silence to the controversial nature of the topic and the general lack of understanding around it.

“I don’t think we really know too much about it,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the federal government.

“I think that’s why Coun. (Al) Campbell last time moved to have it deferred (at the Feb. 24 council meeting), to give us some more time to have a look through it.”

The bylaw amendment to prohibit “the commercial cultivation, growth, production, storage or sale (of) medical marijuana… whether or not carried out for medical purposes by a licensed producer” was suggested to prepare the city for new federal regulations that are due to take effect April 1.

They will shift the medicinal-marijuana program to a system of regulated commercial growers who will supply authorized users; at the same time, all current licences to possess or produce pot will expire.

Prior to the vote, in a presentation on White Rock crime statistics, RCMP Staff Sgt. Lesli Roseberry suggested enforcement efforts would not be concentrated on medical-marijuana patients.

Following the lead of municipal police forces such as that in Vancouver and Abbotsford, “(grow-ops) that are organized-crime related or gang-related are the ones we would investigate,” Roseberry said.

According to advocates of a made-in-B.C. program for medical cannabis, White Rock has more than 50 registered medical-marijuana patients – and many more unregistered – who will be negatively impacted by the changes.

Fathers said she wants to ensure that those who need the drug for medical reasons will be able to access it under the new rules.

She supported the Bylaw 2000 amendments after receiving assurance from the city’s acting director of development services that the changes could again be amended, if necessary, to conform with the federal rules.

“We have to make sure that we have the ability, always, to go back in and allow what is being allowed to be allowed within the city,” she told Peace Arch News.

“Why shouldn’t it be able to be dispensed in a legal environment?”

In council, Mayor Wayne Baldwin also appeared satisfied with the knowledge the bylaw could be further amended in the future.

“We’ve got to keep an open mind for the health of our residents,” he said.

During question period, when asked about the status of a request for the city to lobby the provincial government for a B.C. program, Baldwin said the city can’t act without first knowing what the new federal rules mean. The province is also waiting for that clarity, he added.

White Rock resident Joy Davies, with Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners, appealed to council to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors who, in 2007, led the way regarding regulations around smoking on public patios.

“I can go in now because this city took leadership,” she said. “We’re simply asking the same thing. It’s the same thing, just a different product.”