B.C. Town Suspends Controversial Marijuana Bylaw

Len Gratto with his vegetable and flower grow racks where he starts his young cucumber plants in his Mission basement home on Saturday, January 08, 2011. Gratto was hit with a $5,200 grow op inspection fee. (Photog by Les Bazso)Len Gratto with his vegetable and flower grow racks where he starts his young cucumber plants in his Mission basement home on Saturday, January 08, 2011. Gratto was hit with a $5,200 grow op inspection fee. (Photog by Les Bazso)The District of Mission has temporarily cut the power on a controversial bylaw that has some Mission residents irate.

Mission district council voted Monday night to suspend the Control Substance Property Bylaw for one month so it can be reviewed.

The bylaw, which was implemented to help find marijuana grow operations, allows the city to inspect properties that are consuming more than 93 kilowatts of electricity a day.

The controversy around the bylaw stems from folks who say they are innocent victims of a policy that allows unwarranted inspections and with fees of over $5,000.

An earlier motion made Monday by Coun. Jenny Stevens to suspend the program indefinitely so it can be reviewed was originally defeated by council members, much to the disappointment of the public in attendance. However a proposal from Mayor James Atebe to temporarily defer the bylaw for one month was approved.

Stevens told the Abbotsford-Mission Times Tuesday morning that she was approached by Atebe later in the meeting to see if she would support a motion to put the bylaw on hold for one month.

"In effect, [Atebe's] motion was better than mine," said Stevens.

"It did put the limit of a month, and that means that at one month, council has to come back, reporting on the changes they're going to make and the new bylaw or they have to give the public a progress report and ask for my time.

"So that's better."

Referrals to Mission's Public Safety Inspection Team (PSIT), which runs inspections, made by the RCMP will still continue, said Stevens.

Stevens originally motioned last week to have the bylaw rescinded altogether, as folks have come forward with large inspection fees, and what she referred to as "anecdotal" evidence that they have been subject to embarrassment and suspicion from their neighbours because of the inspections.

Emotions ran high at Monday's council meeting, as people, some carrying signs that read 'PSIT = Gestapo,' packed the chambers, which was so full, some members of the public were asked to sit outside in the lobby as they watched.

Others angrily stormed out of the room. At one point, Atebe's cultural heritage - he originally hails from Kenya - fell under attack.

The bylaw is now the subject of a massive class-action lawsuit.

Stacy Gowanlock, who was slapped with a $5,200 inspection fee after his house was inspected in 2009, said before the meeting took place that no matter what decision Mission council made in regards to the bylaw, the lawsuit will continue.

"The damage is already done," he said, adding a draft of the lawsuit has been written and is being reviewed by a team of lawyers.

"We have people that are losing their homes, having mortgages recalled,

thousands and thousands of dollars worth of repairs and at no time by rescinding this bylaw do I want this council . . . or the District of Mission, to think that this will all go away.

"We are fully prepared to see this right to the distance to get justice for the people affected by it."

- Article from The Vancouver Sun.

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