Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Warren Brown sees a legitimate need for medical marijuana, but warns marijuana grow-ops are the jet fuel for organized crime.
“It’s been our observation that regardless of what colour the elephant is, organized crime is nearby,” Brown told the Cariboo Regional District board Friday.
During recent months, the CRD board has been debating whether to rezone area to accomodate the changing legislation around medical marijuana grow-ops. On Friday the board invited Brown to aid in the discussion.
It is very apparent there is a legitimate purpose for medical marijuana for people who are ill, and a necessity to have it produced within Canada, Brown said.
“What’s being proposed by the federal government is probably the safest recommendation that’s available.”
However, whether a medical marijuana grow-op zone should exist 10 miles from the police station or an hour from the police station, Brown said he does not have a real informed opinion.
As of Oct. 1, people have been able to make applications to run a legal grow-op, and that application does involve an enhanced security clearance.
But Brown’s staff is telling him they don’t think many applications will come forward from residents in the region.
Area L director Bruce Rattray said the CRD’s interest is on the land use planning side.
So far the CRD has been looking at the idea of a restricted number of locations where grow-ops could actually take place, ensuring those locations were relatively removed from residential areas, and had a number of setbacks from neighbouring homes.
“Discussions have leaned toward industrial areas,” Rattray said.
Brown said in order to be approved, the licensee has to demonstrate to Health Canada they have met very stringent standards and security requirements.
“I don’t think we need to over think this too much. There’s one of two options — agriculture or industrial. Industrial because of the business aspect and agricultural because it’s for growing. If you’re going to grow marijuana or tomatoes, you’re in an agricultural area.”
Whether or not it’s near residential, Brown said he’s been told part of the security involves filters to protect the atmosphere.
“I would prefer that the medical grow-ops are on commercial or agriculture licensed areas,” Area D director Deb Bischoff said. “I think it’s better to have them contained to specific areas.”
Area F director Joan Sorley said her main concern is safety.
“When it blows up is it going to be the CRD’s responsibility to enforce?” she asked. “Our bylaw enforcement office is overstretched now as it is.”
100 Mile House mayor Mitch Campsall is concerned the criminal aspect isn’t very far away, he said.
“I worry it’s going to restrict them, cost them and they are going into becoming illegal,” Campsall said.
“I know some licenses are good and some licenses are bad, and I feel sorry for the people who are doing it the right way for the right reasons.”