The number of illegal marijuana grow-ops in Nanaimo dropped significantly during the last half of 2012, and the city’s RCMP detachment says that’s due to an increased number of medical marijuana licenses in the city.
The number of illegal marijuana grow-ops dropped 35 per cent between July to September last year compared to the same period in 2011, dropping to 24 violations compared to 37. From October to December 2012, RCMP recorded a 33 per cent decrease in grow-ops, ending up at 12 cases, down from 18 the previous year.
Cpl. Don Helgeson, former head of Nanaimo RCMP’s drug unit, says new regulations being brought in by Health Canada next year will make enforcing illegal grow-ops easier in the future.
The feds are changing how people with medical conditions can access marijuana. Currently, patients can either attain medical pot through a government-designated grower, or obtain a license to grow it themselves. Under the new rules, which come into effect April 1, 2014, the residential license would be eliminated and replaced with a license for commercial operators only.
The move also presents a new set of circumstances for law enforcement officials.
According to Helgeson, if police are going to investigate a possible marijuana grow-op, they must first contact Health Canada to check if there is a medical marijuana license designated for the property. If a license exists, police won’t investigate further unless there is evidence the terms of the license are being violated.
“What we’re seeing is people are taking advantage of the fact that they can get licences, and are applying for and getting them,” Helgeson said.
But under the new rules, its unclear if people with legitimate licenses now will continue to grow marijuana, he added. It’s also unclear if some licenses will remain in effect beyond the regulatory changeover.
But eventually, no one will have a license for residential properties to grow marijuana.
That means the odds of detecting an illegal grow-op are much higher, he said. However, Helgeson said an increased number of grow-op investigations could also burden police resources.
© Copyright 2013