Feds urged to cancel grow-op licences

Police and municipal authorities say medicinal marijuana program
has grown out of control

Someone is operating a licensed medicinal marijuana grow operation within walking distance of a Langley elementary school.

The only reason Langley RCMP Superintendent Derek Cooke knows this is because his officers have been there twice to investigate attempted grow rips.

“I’d rather not see them at all,” Cooke says of the grow-ops.

But if they are going to be permitted, police should know where they are and they should be subject to safety inspections, he says.

People who apply for the licences from Health Canada are told local police may be notified, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

There is no process in place for police to be advised, no process for inspections, Cooke complains.

Over the past six months, three Langley medical marijuana growing operations have been robbed.

The most recent was Sunday, March 6, in Brookswood when two armed men forced their way into a home, tied up the occupant and removed the cultivated pot plants growing in the garage.

Before that, on Dec. 26, 2010, five people, two of them armed, staged a home invasion of a licensed marijuana growing operation in the Fernridge area of South Langley.

The plants were not fully grown so they were left behind, but the thieves took a computer and cell phone.

And on Oct. 12, 2010, a residence in Willoughby that was licensed to grow marijuana was robbed by three armed men.

Under Canadian law, people who can establish a medical reason for using marijuana to treat chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis can get a licence to grow pot for their personal use, or they can have someone else grow it for them.

Most licences are for between 49 and 196 plants and they do not stipulate how large the plants can be and how much they are allowed to produce, Cooke says.

There is evidence that some people are misusing their small-scale licences using them to provide a veneer of respectability to much larger illicit grow-ops.

In one case, not in Langley, Cooke says a police raid on a medicinal grow-op licenced to grow 73 plants found 1,700

Figures provided by the RCMP to The Times show a dramatic increase in the number of legal marijuana growing operations in the province, with the numbers more than doubling from January 2010 to February 2011.

Growing permits for personal use increased from 817 to 1,766, while the number of “designated” permits for people growing pot for others to consume rose from 320 to 819.

There are 13 times as many people allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes in B.C., increasing from 231 a year ago to 2,995.

On Tuesday, the mayors of both Langleys sent a letter to the federal minister of health warning about a lack of “adequate inspections, enforcement, controls and oversight” over medicinal grow-ops.

“We know, based on actual cases, that there is significant misuse of many of the licences and the volume of product produce often exceeds an individual’s personal requirement…” said the letter signed by Peter Fassbender and Rick Green.

The letter, also sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Langley MP Mark Warawa, premier-designate Christy Clark, Solicitor-General Rich Coleman and others, complains growth of medicinal marijuana operations is “out of control.”

Fassbender and Green want the grow-op licences cancelled.

They say pot should be dispensed through pharmacies instead.

Supt. Cooke agrees, saying no other drugs are produced in backyard labs.

“I don’t know why this substance has to be treated differently.”

Anyone with information regarding the Langley robberies is asked to call Langley RCMP at 604-532-3200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


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