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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: We're Way Higher
Title:CN BC: We're Way Higher
Published On:2012-01-26
Source:Chilliwack Times (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-28 06:01:36

. . . Than the B.C. Average When It Comes to Legally Producing Pot For
Medical Purposes

Chilliwack residents are more than three times more likely than the
average British Columbian to be licenced to grow or possess medical
marijuana, according to Health Canada numbers obtained by the Times.

According to the figures, which were released after an Access to
Information request, 193 Chilliwack residents are licenced to produce
marijuana for medical purposes and 238 people are licenced to possess
it for medical reasons.

That's more than three times more than the provincial rates for
medical marijuana growing and possession. There are 3,831 licenced
growers and 4,608 licenced users in all of British Columbia. That
translates to 84.9 growers and 102.1 users per 100,000 people. But
Chilliwack, with a population of 69,217 people, has 278.8 growers and
343.8 users per 100,000 residents.

By comparison, Abbotsford, which has 50,000 more people than
Chilliwack, has just 122 licenced growers and 131 licenced users.
Those numbers are in line with the provincial average.

For several years, Mayor Sharon Gaetz has been outspoken about the
prevalence of medical marijuana grow ops in Chilliwack and has often
questioned their legitimacy. But while staff had told her that they
believed there were hundreds of medical marijuana grow ops in the
city, she told the Times the city did not have specific numbers.

Gaetz says the Health Canada numbers show the city has a right to be
concerned about the prevalence of medical grow ops. And she said the
numbers are evidence not all medical marijuana grow-ops are

"I think it confirms our suspicion that the grow-ops are not entirely

Gaetz speculated the operators of formerly illegal grow-ops have
acquired medical marijuana licences in order to legitimize their
business. She said city inspectors recently visited a medical
marijuana grow op with 120 lights and the legal ability to produce
78,000 joints.

"Obviously, no one person can smoke 78,000 joints in a year," she

And she was alarmed by the high-average rate of medical possession
licences city.

"We can't have that many more sick people in Chilliwack."

But a local doctor who prescribes pot to patients said the number of
licenced medical marijuana users is being kept artificially low in
Chilliwack and elsewhere because physicians are scared of the impact
doing so could have on their careers.

Dr. Gwyllyn Godard said he believes thousands of people who use
marijuana to alleviate medical problems do so illegally because they
don't have access to a prescribing doctor.

Godard said doctors are afraid of being targeted by medical marijuana
opponents and having their licences revoked.

"The thing any physician is scared of, everywhere in Canada, is loss
of their licences," he said.

While speaking to the Times, Godard said he was wary about quantifying
the number of marijuana prescriptions he has written, but previously
he told CBC that it exceeded 100. He did tell the Times that his
client list included RCMP members, veterans and even "high-level city

Godard is a member of Stop The Violence BC, an anti-pot-prohibition
advocacy group comprising academics, physicians and lawyers whose work
was endorsed in November by a quartet of former Vancouver mayors.

While the City of Chilliwack and Gaetz have long focused on the risks
they say are associated with the production of marijuana in homes,
Godard said efforts to limit homegrown medical pot inevitably stem
from the antipathy towards marijuana among conservatives.

Gaetz has been at the fore of a push to get Health Canada, which
regulates medical marijuana, to revise regulations on where plants can
legally be grown.

Godard is wary about such laws and said people should be allowed to
grow a "few plants" for personal use. But he did agree marijuana
probably shouldn't be grown on a large scale in homes.

"I think if they're going to do large-scale production, like
designated growing for other people, that should maybe be done in
commercial facilities."
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