Prescription pot pretense ending

Medical marijuana growing licences have run out of control, and police now have to sort out the criminals exploiting the system

Thousands of medical licences for marijuana grow ops are cancelled as of April 1, after the system slid out of control.

VICTORIA – On April 1, medical marijuana growing licences expire across the country, and only licensed commercial growers will be able to legally fill a prescription for pot.

Ottawa is moving to clean up the mess it created by issuing medical licences all over the country. Since then, municipalities have complained that small-scale medical licences have been greatly exceeded, with many used as fronts for a criminal drug trade that has made B.C. infamous around the world.

How big is the problem? There are about 38,000 Canadians licensed to carry marijuana for medical purposes, and half of them live in B.C. Their permission to grow their own or buy it from designated small-scale growers is withdrawn in a couple of months.

Here’s a look at the community level. Police in the Fraser Valley suburb of Maple Ridge estimate that it alone has 500 properties licensed to grow pot. No, Maple Ridge is not a world hotspot for glaucoma or arthritis. It is historically known for its secluded properties and as a base for B.C.’s prison system and the province’s Hells Angels.

Police have only an estimate because Ottawa’s bungled medical pot scheme conceals the location of licensed growers from provincial and local governments.

RCMP Insp. Dave Fleugel told Maple Ridge council last week that his detachment will first target medical growers they know are linked to organized crime. But it’s difficult to determine which are legal and which are not.

“This has the potential to cripple the courts,” Fleugel said. “Something is going to have to take a back seat if we are going to go after all of them.”

The police and fire department have proposed an amnesty or grace period, allowing people to disclose their location and have it properly dismantled without penalty, to help deal with the volume.

This mess was created by Ottawa in response to a court ruling that forced them to make medical pot available. The Harper government remains trapped in a failed war-on-drugs mentality that prevents any innovation or even common sense.

Then there is the circus in Vancouver, where self-styled princes of pot exploit the confusion of the medical marijuana law to run an Amsterdam-style retail trade.

Cannabis Culture, the pot and propaganda empire built by Marc Emery before he was jailed in the U.S., rants about the government’s “war on patients,” amid garish ads for “pot by post” and exotic weed varieties.

“By Health Canada’s own estimate, the cost will increase from $5 per gram to $8.80 per gram – going up by nearly 400 per cent,” its website warns. Apparently smoking lots of weed really is bad for your math skills.

Dana Larsen, who spearheaded the ill-conceived and failed decriminalization petition last year, heads up the serious-looking “Medical Cannabis Dispensary.” It has done so well at its location in the drug bazaar of East Hastings Street that it’s got a branch office in downtown Vancouver.

Its official-looking forms have a long list of conditions where only a confirmation of diagnosis is required. In addition to genuine conditions such as side effects of chemotherapy, it includes anxiety, psoriasis, spinal cord injury and even “substance addictions/withdrawal.”

And did you know you can get a vet’s note to buy medical pot for your pet?

Larsen has boasted about the exotic offerings of his stores, including “watermelon hash oil” at $150 for 2.5 grams. Wow man, that’s like 400 million per cent higher!

Fittingly, this farce goes back underground on April Fool’s Day. Medical users can only order shipments from an approved commercial producer.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Follow on twitter: @tomfletcherbc

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