Grow-op inspection regime sparks concern

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
January 10, 2014 01:00 AM

A Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director has raised concerns about the safety inspection regime for commercial medical marijuana production facilities.

A Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director has raised concerns about the safety inspection regime for commercial medical marijuana production facilities.

"If the RCMP aren't charged with that responsibility, I'd like to know what kind of inspections Health Canada is going to actually put in place," Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar said at the Jan. 6 policing committee meeting.

Her comments followed a report to the committee by Sunshine Coast RCMP Staff Sgt. Herb Berdahl, who was asked in November to clarify the RCMP's role in medical marijuana grow-op inspections under Health Canada's new program.

"In a word, nothing," Berdahl told the committee on Monday. "The police have absolutely no responsibility for inspections of any kind. It falls to Health Canada. They do their own inspections."

Berdahl added that Health Canada inspectors, to his knowledge, "are few and far between."

That did not sit well with Shugar, who said one of Health Canada's stated reasons for implementing new regulations was to address abuses such as booby-trapping, bypassing power and growing more plants than the amount allocated to producers.

"My understanding was that the new regulations would counterbalance the ability to do that," Shugar said. "Without regular inspections, that's not available, so I'm quite concerned that there will not be any regular inspections."

The committee adopted Shugar's recommendation to refer the issue to the SCRD's planning department "to look at how we are going to ensure the safety of our first responders and fire departments and so on, if there's no inspections taking place."

The issue of security for medical marijuana operations was also raised at the meeting, with school trustee Greg Russell pointing to "the rather large operation" being proposed in Port Mellon.

"Who's going to be responsible for ensuring the security of that facility?" Russell said. "I'm worried, I guess."

Berdahl said the Health Canada regulations would dictate the level of security required.

"If there's a breach, we will investigate it just like a break-in to a drug store or a shoe store."

Board chair Garry Nohr said directors recently toured a large medical marijuana operation in Maple Ridge that will officially begin production on April 1, when the new Health Canada regulations take effect.

"They had security like you wouldn't believe," Nohr said.

Other directors concurred, noting the facility had cameras, sound and motion sensors, thick walls and a vault for storing the product, while a bonded courier would be used to ship small amounts at a time.

"It's going to be like a Hollywood movie to break into those things," committee chair Lorne Lewis said.

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