City moves to regulate medical marijuana
The City Solicitor has proposed a new by-law that would regulate and licence medical marijuana users and growers in Surrey. The new MMPR by-law attempts to ensure that those who are growing or producing medical marijuana meet typical safety regulations, such as fire or electrical standards.
Since 2003, Health Canada has provided medical marijuana licences to select individuals to legally grow and possess the plant for medicinal usage. The agency, on the recommendation of doctors, distributes upwards of 350 personal use licences per month. A growing number of individuals are seeking medical marijuana from dispensaries, or “compassion clubs,” rather than growing themselves. These dispensaries often fall out of the legal framework of regular building by-laws, leaving them in a current grey area.
Three licences are proposed under the by-law:
- Personal-use licence: for an individual who wishes to store and consume medical marijuana
- Personal-use production license: for an individual who wishes to produce medical marijuana for his or her own consumption
- Designated-person production licence: for an individual who wishes to produce medical marijuana for use by up to two other people
The by-law requires that growers develop a building layout, including a waste water discharge system, a monitored alarm system, a ventilation plan, and, under the designated-person production licence, a security camera system and a neighbourhood responsibility plan.
Although the concern for a basic regulatory framework is well founded, there appears to be a number of onerous requirements placed in the proposed by-law.
For example, requiring an individual with a Health Canada medical marijuana licence to also apply to the City annually for a municipal licence, despite not even purportedly growing the marijuana themselves, appears to overstep the acceptable boundaries of state intrusion in an individual’s private business. A local group called Beyond Prohibition has already noted that it intends to fight that section of the by-law if approved.
Meanwhile, the personal production licence requirements, which outline the need for a major level of planning and industrial equipment, as well as ordering production be indoors, will likely be beyond the acceptable investment an individual is willing to make to simply grow a couple plants for their own usage. Instead of approaching that particular licence like a typical individual’s unregulated backyard garden, it seems to force a person to establish an industrial setup.
Finally, the designated-person production licence, with the most potential for acceptability and impact on underground grow ops, appears to be the most backwards. Whereas such a by-law could have endorsed and approved groups to legally grow marijuana in a safe, modern, and industrial manner, not unlike a regular farm-based greenhouse, it is quite unlikely that that would occur. By restricting the dispensing of produced marijuana to two other individuals, as well as requiring the names and information of those two people, there’s little reason for a producer to make such a significant investment in building all the required infrastructure for such little return.
These particular elements of the by-law seem designed to push medical marijuana users out of the City by making the licence requirements invasive and burdensome, rather than attempting to provide an acceptable regulatory system under which medical marijuana can be grown safely in the community.
If the City were truly intent on pursuing the latter agenda, they would remove the two person restriction from the designated-production licence and lead the way towards a safe, regulated, and taxable framework under which groups could produce medical marijuana for distribution across the region.