Maple Ridge is looking at amending its zoning bylaws to limit medicinal marijuana grow-operations to agricultural areas.
Growing marijuana for medicinal purposes is regulated by the federal government, through a Health Canada licence.
Therefore, noted a staff report to Maple Ridge council, “local governments have limited power to restrict this land use within municipal boundaries.”
But, they are able to restrict its production to specific areas.
Councillor Michael Morden initiated the issue with council in June, and while it doesn’t get to the violence and organized crime component of the issue, he’s pleased it’s being dealt with at the municipal level.
“It’s high time we start dealing with community safety issues,” Morden said.
The Maple Ridge fire department brought several concerns to District staff about medicinal marijuana grow-operations, and the staff report stated “these operations often pose major fire, electrical and life safety code violations, and have experienced many resulting fires.”
Grow-operations that aren’t in “purpose-built” buildings, pose an “extreme hazard” to emergency personnel as wiring is often done without a permit and doesn’t adhere to safety codes.
Changes to the buildings to allow for cooling of grow-operations can made fires spread more quickly and trap fire fighters in the building.
The fire department also noted that propane-powered CO2 generators are often used to help grow the plants but they are banned and are an “extremely dangerous practice.”
Meanwhile, the local RCMP are concerned about home invasions of licensed grow-operations, organized crime, and safety hazards.
They are concerned about the danger these potential home invasions put neighbours in – those whose homes might be mistaken for having a grow-operation.
Police also worry about insufficient accountability, for example, they are not informed about how many legal grow-ops exist in the community.
In addition, with very few Health Canada inspectors, grow-operations could have a lot more plants thanthey are licensed for.
And police are only allowed to seize the extra plants, which “results in virtually no penalty for growing contrary to the regulations,” the District staff report noted.
In 1997, marijuana was made legal as a medical treatment. In 2003, it became legal to possess seeds and dried marijuana for those authorized by Health Canada.
In B.C., there are about 1,200 licenses issued to people to grow it.