Health pot issue clouded

Members of Kelowna’s compassion club were gobsmacked by the idea local politicians wanted their input on problems surrounding medical marijuana growers, let alone that talks slated for next Monday could give rise to a committee dedicated to the issue.

Members of Kelowna’s compassion club were gobsmacked by the idea local politicians wanted their input on problems surrounding medical marijuana growers, let alone that talks slated for next Monday could give rise to a committee dedicated to the issue.

“I’m so excited. I won’t be sleeping much this week—this is the first time they’ve engaged people in this manner, to come together and discuss this issue,” said a club member going by the name of “Bob K,” after a council meeting where the community impact of medical marijuana dispensaries was tabled.

It was at that meeting where the mayor said the issue would return to council’s agenda next week, requesting that members of the compassion club offer some ideas on how to deal with what’s increasingly being viewed as a health and safety issue.

“This is fabulous. I didn’t think they’d let us speak,” echoed Rob Callaway, the club’s research  coordinator.

While the duo hadn’t expected to have their say, they headed to the morning council meeting to show support for medical marijuana growers and the process that allows ill Canadians to access or grow the drug legally.

Last Friday, they were made aware that council would be considering a letter from two Fraser Valley mayors requesting Kelowna’s support in ending that process.

“It has created situations whereto neighbourhoods have become unsafe, individual lives have been at risk and the overall cost to our local governments have risen,” read a letter penned by mayors of the City of Langley and the Township of Langley, where Kelowna’s support was requested.

To solve the problem, the pair called on Health Canada to cancel current licenses and that any medicinal marijuana would in the future be dispensed through licensed pharmacies by doctor’s prescriptions.

“As this is the practice for other controlled substances, such as methadone, we do not see why this cannot be done for medical marijuana,” the letter read.  “We also urge that the marijuana is dispensed be grown at a government regulated facility.”

The solution by Langley is not the answer, said Callaway, adding that the township and city’s proposal to cut off licensing to individual growers isn’t even feasible.

“Despite wanting to phase out individual licenses in favour of pharmacies, Health Canada was forced by a Federal Court ruling to expand the individual license holder regulations.”

Until 2009, he said, a marijuana grower could produce cannabis for only one patient and receive no compensation for doing so. Now a producer can grow for two patients and be compensated for doing so.

“Considering that legal precedent, it is highly unlikely that the current right of individual medical users of cannabis to use and grow cannabis will be taken away,” he said.

Unfortunately, he conceded, growing does come with risks and those who are licenced face “fear of theft and violence” from both police and criminal organizations but that he said came down to prohibition—an issue Mayor Sharon Shepherd was quick to point out wouldn’t be changed in council chambers.

“There are legal, medicinal grow ops in the city and they’ve caused challenges with bylaw and law enforcement because we don’t know they’re legal,” Shepherd said. “At no time am I opposed to the idea of medical marijuana, and the issue of legalization will continue to talk place but that’s not the purpose of why we’re dealing with this.”