Beyond Prohibition Foundation Calls on Surrey to Halt Unconstitutional Medical Marijuana Bylaw

CANNABIS CULTURE – The Beyond Prohibition Foundation today called on the City of Surrey to immediately drop its plan to require Health Canada licensed medical marijuana consumers to register with the City or face criminal prosecution.

The proposed bylaw would force patients, not simply producers, who are legally authorized to possess marijuana by Health Canada to register for permits from the City.

“I am aghast that Surrey would even consider forcing critically and chronically ill Canadians to register their illness and medical choices with the City,” said Kirk Tousaw, Executive Director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation. “Surrey does not have the right to force its citizens to get permits to take medicine. This is a gross violation of medical privacy based on fear, misinformation and stigma. Shame on Len Garis and Surrey City Council.”

Tousaw vowed to go court to protect patient rights if necessary.

“The Foundation is confident that any such requirements would be struck down,” he said. “If the City passes this bylaw, we will immediately sue alleging breach of the Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and applicable privacy legislation. Surrey needs to realize that its sick and suffering citizens are entitled to lawfully possess physician prescribed medicine without needing permission from the City to do so. This nanny-state bylaw is completely beyond the pale.”

The City of Surrey has a long and sordid history in relation to medical marijuana, which includes refusing to issue permits for medical marijuana production, and billing homeowners thousands of dollars if they allow even safe legal medical marijuana production in their residence. City of Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis continues to use demonstrably false data on marijuana fire risks to justify ever more invasive anti-marijuana programs.

“This is the equivalent of requiring patients to register with the City before filing a prescription,” said Jacob Hunter, Policy Director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation. “Can you imagine telling a patient in intense pain that they have to file for a City permit to fill a morphine prescription? This proposed bylaw is unthinkably cruel. This crusade by Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis against Medical Marijuana patients is more about justifying his fire department’s budget than any actual safety concern. The likelihood of a medical marijuana production facility catching fire is lower than homes where people cook, or use any number of electrical appliances like irons. Is the city prepared to force those who iron their clothes or cook at home to apply for city permits and be subject to inspections? If Mr. Garis continues to use false statistics on medical marijuana fire risks to justify attacks on the sick and dying, he should be ashamed of himself.”

The Beyond Prohibition Foundation is a Canadian activist group working to repeal cannabis prohibition and replace it with a regulated and controlled system of production and access.

Surrey clamps down on medical marijuana users, growers

by Kevin Diakiw, Surrey North Delta Leader

People in Surrey who use or grow medical marijuana will soon have to obtain municipal permits and growers will have to relocate to an agricultural area.

Surrey council endorsed a plan that would place restrictions on how and where medical marijuana is grown and stored in this city.

Since 2003, people with certain medical conditions – such as glaucoma, spinal cord injury, pain or nausea from cancer or HIV and epileptic seizures – have been allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Others, who obtained federal licences, have been allowed to grow pot in their home to supply those who need it for medical reasons.

The City of Surrey has long believed the medical grow-ops are often wired incorrectly and pose a significant fire hazard, with structures housing the grow-ops becoming up to 24 times more likely to burn.

The city also states the grows are often targets for violent grow rips.

While Health Canada stipulates municipal permits are required, federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq wrote in a letter to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in April, 2010: “Health Canada does not, however, verify compliance with these requirements either before or after licensing.”

She also referred to a “reform exercise” being undertaken.

Even though that was a year ago, there has been no evidence locally of a federal reform exercise to date, and Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis said the Health Canada requirements continue to be ignored.

“They’re not following any of the guidelines that Health Canada has given them, not in one single case,” Garis said Monday.

The exception, he said, is that several applications for inspections have been submitted, but denied, because the grow-op was not in an agricultural setting.

Health Canada told The Leader Monday it was still working on the reform exercise.

“Health Canada is currently considering longer-term measures to reform the Marijuana Medical Access Program and its regulations,” a spokesman for the ministry said. “In its considerations, the department is focussing on three key objectives: public health, safety and security; reasonable access to marijuana for medical purposes; and examining the overall costs to Health Canada.

“Any changes to the program will balance the need to provide legal access to this controlled substance with the government’s responsibility to regulate it.”

A corporate report to Surrey council Monday recommends a bylaw that would require permits for anyone using medical marijuana, another for those using and growing pot, and a separate permit for those growing marijuana for others.

Under the bylaw, if a person refuses to comply, they may be convicted of an indictable offense.

Citing privacy reasons, Health Canada has not provided information about medical grow-ops in specific municipalities. Health Canada does say that 3,627 people in this province have federal authority to possess medical marijuana. About 30 per cent of those are allowed to produce pot for other people who use it.

Garis has said municipalities participating in the Electrical Fire and Safety Initiative have found 50 medical grow operations during their inspections.

The bylaw also indicates the growers would have to comply with local zoning requirements.

Garis said that would likely mean they would have to relocate to an agricultural area.

– Article from The Surrey Leader.