Maple Ridge tells Ottawa it wants a say locating medical marijuana ops

Mayor Nicole Read writes to Conservative Health Minister Rona Ambrose


Cities and the people who live within them, should be able to have a say in where medical marijuana operations set up within their boundaries, says the mayor of Maple Ridge.

“It should be a formal requirement that Health Canada make the location of these potential sites known to the public and hold a public meeting and consider the comments of our citizens in determining if such a facility should be considered for licensing in our city,” Nicole Read said in a release Friday.

The mayor wrote to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose pointing out there’s no formal public process relating to locations of medical marijuana facilities in Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge is currently dealing with community opposition to a medical marijuana plant being built in Whonnock on 272nd Street over protests of the neighbours.

“The situation in Whonnock highlights the issues around the failures in the current Health Canada process.

“Our citizens expect to have a robust public process around the location of these facilities, yet there is none,” Read said.

“To be very clear, we understand that there is a market for the medical use of marihuana, and the goal is to establish a national network of licensed growers.”

But Read said the city is concerned about the process that involves.

“We will continue to vigorously press the federal government to establish a public process relating to the location of medical marijuana production facilities.”

She said in her letter that Maple Ridge is getting more than its share of medical marijuana applications.

In March, the City of Maple Ridge sought the opinion of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner  in Victoria to see if it can tell the public more about plans for a dozen possible medical pot productions in the city.

Anyone who applies to Health Canada for a medical marijuana grow operation must inform the city, fire and police of their plans.

However, privacy laws prevent the city from disclosing any of that information, such as location, to the public.

Medical marijuana facilities are permitted uses within the Agricultural Land Reserve and can’t be prohibited by cities.

Final arguments are wrapped up Friday in a court challenge of the federal government’s move to ban home growing of medical marijuana by doctor-approved users.

A win by pro-pot advocates would blow a big hole in the new federal system imposed last spring that outlawed previously legal home grows and tried to force all patients to buy only from new commercial producers. Those companies will have the exclusive right to grow and sell if Ottawa prevails.

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy told Judge Michael Phelan the new system means higher medical marijuana costs for thousands of users who until now have been able to grow their own and who have a court-enshrined right in Canada to reasonable access to their medicine.

In December 2012, Federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq announced the new program called Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation at a media conference held at Maple Ridge’s Fire Hall No. 1.

The regulation encouraged large-scale commercial medical marijuana facilities while phasing out personal medical grow permits.