Second Legal Grow Op Shut Down in Calgary

With the illegal wiring, fire-charred wall and meter-bypassing water system, the home that city inspectors searched Wednesday had all the hallmarks of an illegal pot grow op.

The key factor distinguishing this one: its owner had a Health Canada licence to grow medical marijuana plants for ailing Calgarians.

It’s the second time this year authorities inspected a legal pot grower, and the second time violations prompted the home to be fenced off and declared unfit for habitation.

“We want them to operate safely within the City of Calgary, and we’re finding too many safety violations to be comfortable with us not inspecting them,” Wayne Brown, head of the city’s safety response team, said Thursday. “In a perfect world, we would like to inspect each of these.”

But the federal government’s regulations and privacy rules make that effectively impossible. Health Canada only provides information on legal growers’ whereabouts to police, not civic building officials or provincial health authorities. Police don’t get lists of licensees, but can reach Health Canada for verification of legal growers to help enforce drug laws.

In the case of the unidentified Calgary house searched Wednesday, the police “green team” had information on a grow op, discovered it was le-gal and referred it to Brown’s team to check for safety regulations, Brown said.

Many illegal pot growers by-pass utility systems to dodge the often high bills for the heat lamps and plant watering systems. This legal operator was doing the same, and Brown noted he could potentially face charges for theft of electricity or water.

Health Canada does have 15 inspectors devoted to the thousands of licensed grow operations in Canada, but in-stead of looking at building safety, they check for things such as plant numbers, security measures and other federal marijuana regulations, ministry spokesman Gary Holub said in an e-mail.

“Furthermore, individuals with a production licence from Health Canada are expected to comply fully with all applicable federal, provincial, territorial or municipal legislation,” Holub wrote. “This is clearly stated in the information material provided to them when they receive their licence from Health Canada.”

The federal regulations give several conditions for revoking a grower’s licence. Provincial or civic safety violations aren’t included in those conditions.

Keith Fagin of Calgary 420 Cannabis Community is skepti-cal of a bid to do safety checks on all licensed growers.

Fagin said any organization or regulation will see that a few people will exploit the system.

“I’m aware of a number of them, but the vast majority of them are within compliance,” he said.

“We’ll have master electricians. The people who can afford to set up a quality grow work with garden stores, with us, with tradespeople and do it properly.”

This month, city council voted to press Health Canada for more disclosure of the licensed growers’ whereabouts in Calgary.

– Article from Calgary Herald.