RCMP study cites 70 cases of abuse of medical marijuana licences
An RCMP review of medical marijuana licences found 70 cases across the country of holders violating the terms of their licence agreements.
The 2009 report said that in 40 of the cases, those with permits for medical pot production were trafficking excess marijuana to make a profit, RCMP Cpl. Dan Weatherby said Thursday.
Weatherby said he couldn't release a copy of the criminal intelligence brief on medical marijuana because it is classified.
But he quoted statistics from the national study, which raised a series of police concerns about medical marijuana licences.
Just this week, Penticton RCMP's Drug Section raided a property near Okanagan Falls and found two loaded guns and three growing licences, and much more pot than the licences permitted.
The three names on the licences had a very remote link to the property and two other men were arrested and are expected to face charges, police said.
Weatherby, who's with the Coordinated Marijuana Enforcement Team, said police have concerns about the way medical marijuana licences are issued.
He said the report proved that some "permit holders were growing marijuana for medicinal purposes and then they were selling the excess for personal gain."
But because of privacy laws, Health Canada cannot share information about licence holders with police, Weatherby said.
"The privacy act does not allow Health Canada to make a list of licence holders available to the police," he said. "We can't find out how many are in the Lower Mainland. They won't release that."
As of last month, there were 4,869 people across the country with permits to possess medical marijuana, 1,368 of them in B.C.
And there were 1,137 people across Canada licensed to produce medical marijuana. Health Canada would not say how many are in B.C.
Health Canada media officer Philippe Laroche said applicants for the licences must produce documentation that they haven't had a criminal conviction for a drug offence in the last decade.
But Weatherby said the RCMP study found six medical marijuana licence holders did in fact have drug charges or convictions on their records.
The RCMP study also found that "in the majority of the cases involving production and trafficking marijuana exceeding the terms of the permit, the licence holder was not arrested, charged or convicted," Weatherby said.
The report recommended more comprehensive criminal background checks before permits are issued, "considering the number of cases of licence holders with prior convictions for drug related charges."
It said there was only one Health Canada inspector for every 257 licences on average, making monitoring of the permit holders extremely difficult.
"More inspectors should be dedicated to overseeing medical marijuana and have increased authority to ensure licence holders are respecting the terms of their permits," the report said.
Weatherby said another problem is that Health Canada greatly underestimates marijuana yields per plant, saying one marijuana plant produces 45 grams of dried pot.
Feb. 12, 2010
The Vancouver Sun