Police in the Niagara region have arrested 18 people and seized 4,015 marijuana plants in connection with an illegal grow operation in the area, an instance where legal medical marijuana licenses are being used to mask illegal activities, say the police.
Executing three search warrants over the past 13 months, the Niagara Regional Police Service Guns, Gangs, and Grows Unit believe the marijuana produced by the licensed growers is not being used for medical purposes but is instead finding its way onto the black market, an indication that the current approach under Health Canada’s medical marijuana regulations is being abused, say the police.
Legally grown marijuana is finding its way onto the black market…
According to a released statement, “Police believe that illegal marihuana grow operations pose a significant threat to the public and those who operate them. The persons operating them become vulnerable to the criminal subculture.” Niagara police added that an illegal grow operation was recently the site of a violent home invasion robbery where firearms were used.
On August 24 of this year, the federal government introduced the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which essentially combined the two previous approaches into one. Just like the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), the ACMPR designates a select group of marijuana growers as licensed producers, enabling them to supply medical marijuana users across the country.
However, in response to the February, 2016, Supreme Court ruling which found that requiring medical marijuana users to get their marijuana solely from licensed producers was a violation of liberty and security rights, the new ACMPR also hearkens back to the older Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) by giving authorized patients (those who have obtained a prescription from a physician) the option of growing their own limited supply of marijuana for personal medical use or of designating another person to grow it for them.
Legal operations provide cover for black market activities…
According to police, criminals are now shrouding their over-production under the guise of licensed producers and individuals with authorization to grow for personal use are sometimes found growing far more than could reasonably be expected to be consumed by one person.
The problem stems from the lack of system oversight by Health Canada, say the authorities, which does not inspect those to whom it gives personal growing licenses. And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that physicians prescribing marijuana to their patients are not working under agreed upon medical standards, nor do they receive any training in prescribing marijuana, and thus have been found to be prescribing wildly differing amount or marijuana for daily consumption.
“We are seeing people are being authorized to possess very large volumes for medical purposes, and where it’s almost impossible to smoke that much in a day the amount that they are being prescribed,” says Deputy Chief Mike Serr, the drug committee chair for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, in conversation with the CBC.
Serr says that the current system is ripe for criminal exploitation. “It is very easy for someone to have, to designate a family friend without a criminal record to get, obtain a licence for him, and then they are the controlling person in that organization, they are the ones actually making the money,” says Serr.
File under: legally grown marijuana black market