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Documents outline B.C. Ministry of Justice concerns over Ottawa’s new rules for medicinal marijuana

by TRAVIS LUPICK on JAN 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Internal memos released in response to freedom of information requests suggest both the B.C. Ministry of Justice and B.C. Ministry of Health are less than thrilled with Ottawa’s new medicinal marijuana regulations. (SHUTTERSTOCK)

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is preparing to rescind more than 16,500 British Columbians’ licences to produce medical marijuana.

That has the B.C. Ministry of Justice worried that a lot of people who have been growing weed legally will go on caring for their plants after they’ve lost their permits to do so. What’s more, there’s very little police will be able to do to stop patients from continuing to cultivate their own medicine.

According to documents posted online by the province on December 30, 2013, the federal government has failed to respond to the ministry’s questions on those points and others regarding changes to medicinal-marijuana regulations scheduled to take effect on April 1.

“Police in B.C. are concerned that many of these operations will continue to grow marijuana after their MMAR [Marihuana for Medical Access Regulation] licenses expire,” states a September 18, 2013, briefing note prepared for B.C. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. “Exacerbating this issue is the fact that Health Canada, citing privacy concerns, does not intend to disclose the addresses of former licensed grow operations once they are no longer permitted to legally grow marijuana.”

The documents were released in response to a freedom of information request and subsequently posted online by the province. Though heavily redacted, one portion left intact notes problems the province has with Ottawa’s “transition plan” for the regulatory changes. Quoted in part, those concerns include a lack of answers from the federal government on the following:

  •  A plan to deal with potentially unsafe properties formerly used for medical marijuana production
  • Whether inspections of previous production locations will be conducted to ensure cessation of production as well as the safety of these sites
  • How existing MMAR producers will be informed of the transition to MMPR [Marihuana for Medicinal Purposes Regulation]…and what will be required of them to ensure they are in compliance with the Criminal Code of Canada

“While a transition plan has been created,” the briefing note states, “it does not deal with the concerns regarding what will happen to dwelling places formerly used for growing marijuana.”

According to the document, there were 16,588 production licences issued in British Columbia as of July 29, 2013.

The B.C. Ministry of Justice is not the only provincial body to disagree with Ottawa on certain provisions of the new rules. In October 2013, the Straight reported that the B.C. Ministry of Health has also “objected” to some of the incoming restrictions on medicinal marijuana.

In a May 2013 “issue note”, the province expressed concerns regarding the MMPR only providing for the selling of dried marijuana (excluding options such as edibles), and that price increases will likely follow the discontinuation of personal production licences.

Both the B.C. Ministry of Justice and the B.C. Ministry of Health declined to answer questions about whether or not their concerns have been addressed.

In October 2013, Health Canada spokesperson Sean Upton told the Straight the department is not doing interviews on the topic of medicinal marijuana.

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