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Increase in safety and lawful activity if grow-op industry is regulated

By Hempology | September 28, 2007

NOW Magazine, ON
27 Sep 2007
Matt Mernagh


City’s Crackdown On Grow Ops Doesn’t Protect Medical Pot Growers

After three hours punching each other silly over issues like amending the fireworks bylaw, the licensing and standards committee is finally ready to hear my deputation September 11.

I’m here on behalf of the Canadian Cannabis Society to speak to the final agenda item: how the city plans to police pot and divvy up the proceeds of grow op busts.

At the start of the meeting, I hear chair Howard Moscoe say offhandedly that he’s thankful no one is speaking on the proposed bylaw.

A city staffer informs him otherwise.

Under the proposed bylaw, there will be a blanket prohibition on growing weed inside city limits.  And when Toronto Police Services, the OPP or the RCMP notify the city that a property owner, wittingly or unwittingly, has a grow op on the premises, the owner will be fined via the assessment rolls.

And the definition of “grow op”? It will be up to the police to decide if city inspectors are needed.  As written, the bylaw makes no accommodation for med pot users or compassion clubs, which are serving 5,000 people. 

A first-time offender would be dinged with a $5,000 fine, $25,000 for a second offence and a mind-boggling $100,000 for a third charge, as well as substantial public health, building and fire inspection fees.

But won’t this set of perks for popping potheads create a system ripe for abuse? Particularly when prohibition of grow ops outlaws even the legal kind growing for medical pot?

Getting ready to speak, I check my stage attire: 100 per cent hemp dress shoes, soft brown pants, matching shirt and hemp bag.

When Moscoe calls the agenda item, I’m already standing at the table with Toronto Compassion Centre outreach coordinator Tracy Curley and membership director Chad Cooke, a Health Canada legal med cannabis cardholder.

The councillors seem bewildered.  And when Moscoe gives me the go-ahead to start, he’s almost pleading, as if to say, “Please keep it short, potheads” the first appearance of the cannabis community at City Hall and we’re warned we may get cut down like our beloved plants.

I blast off by asking the committee to be proactive and ensure that Health Canada legal growers aren’t inadvertently snagged in the proposed bylaw.  Health Canada certainly isn’t going to protect us from prosecution.

I go further.  The city, I say, could eliminate gangs, violence and guns and keep libraries and pools open by instituting a licensing system to grow pot.  Residentially licensed and industrial-sized ganja gardens could be allowed in city-zoned cannabis growing areas.

Seeing committee member Rob Ford nudge colleague Mike Del Grande, I pause.  “Imagine the increase in safety and lawful activity if we chose to regulate this industry.”

Did this bong hitter befuddle them? Not a single question.  Moscoe passes a motion to receive our deputation.  Before I’m even comfortably seated back in the audience, the bylaw passes.

As he votes, Moscoe tells us he believes the bylaw will have no effect on us medicinal growers, since it only targets grow ops with 500 plants or more.

But there’s no exemption in the fine print.  A week later, Del Grande e-mails me to say he’s forwarding my suggestion for an amendment to legal services.  Stay tuned.

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