‘See for yourself, before writing law on medical pot zone’
Maple Ridge council needs to see firsthand what medical marijuana dispensing is all about, before it passes its law apportioning the medical grow op business on to farmland.
But former councillor and federal NDP candidate Craig Speirs says no one on council has visited The Always Growing Green Society office on 224th Street, where medical pot is dished out to hundreds of patients.
“They’re only getting half the story. If you want to make a valid decision, they should at least attempt to get the rest of the story and meet with someone from there … “
The dispensary, he added, is about helping sick people.
Council is considering a bylaw that would designate the district’s farmland as areas where medical marijuana grow ops could set up, once federal law allows them to next year.
But Speirs says the grow operations are better suited in industrial warehouses, where they can be more easily serviced and secured, and that requiring the operations to set up in farm areas will discourage a growing industry.
By refusing to consider industrial areas for such operations, “They’re ignoring the economic opportunity. It’s huge.”
Speirs said areas at the north end of 256th Street, Albion Industrial Park, and Maple Meadows Industrial Park are all under utilized. Air quality, mould or and security issues could all be addressed by regular inspections and regulation.
Speirs said a better question would be whether council, given its approach, wants to get rid of TAGGS?
“TAGGS has not been an issue. In fact, they have been a positive influence in the neighbourhood.”
Speirs repeated his arguments Thursday on CKNW’s Bill Good Show, hosted by Michael Smyth.
Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said Speirs is mixing up the issues of zoning with the debate about medical marijuana use. The district is only trying to respond to the changing legislation, in which personal use and personal grow licences will be phased out for small-scale producers, while large-scale medicinal pot operations will be allowed.
“Our experience so far is that industrial use is not a good fit,” she said, because of air quality and security concerns associated with marijuana production.
Ashlie said medicinal growers are exceeding their quotas and selling the surplus.
“The system right now is not working. It’s being abused by those using it for illegal purposes.”
It’s only common sense to put medicinal marijuana operations in farm areas.
“You’re growing a plant and that fits with agriculture for us.”
Speirs said the legislation, which will phase out smaller growers, will make it more costly for people on low incomes to get medical marijuana.
And with new federal legislation in effect, people growing more than five plants will be jailed for a minimum of six months under new mandatory minimum sentences.
Coun. Bob Masse hasn’t been in the dispensary, but hasn’t been invited, either.
“I don’t really know what I would get visiting TAGGS,” he said.
“I don’t think that shows a lack of understanding.”
Masse said council hasn’t necessarily decided where medicinal marijuana operations will be allowed.
“I don’t think that discussion is completely finished yet.”