Fire chiefs across the country are calling on Health Canada to give them information about legal marijuana grow-ops with the aim of making their communities safer.
Health Canada licenses people who need marijuana for medical reasons, or a designated grower to grow the drug, but their locations are kept secret for privacy and safety reasons.
Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis said legal growers’ addresses should be available to fire and electrical inspectors, especially if they are in residential areas.
“Electrical systems are being altered for the lights in the grow operations,” Garis told The Province on Thursday. “Safety issues are absent from the federal licensing process and we’re asking for that process to be connected.”
Surrey became one of the first places in Canada to take advantage of a court ruling allowing electrical inspectors to look for illegal marijuana grow-ops based on electricity-consumption data.
“Through our processes for inspecting homes of illegal growers, we have discovered nine [legal grow-ops] in Surrey,” said Garis, spokesman for the B.C. Fire Chiefs Association on marijuana issues.
“In four of them the electrical inspector disconnected the power immediately because of the shoddy workmanship and concerns he had over the safety of the [electrical] systems.”
He said between 2003 and 2005, Surrey firefighters dealt with 17 fires a year sparked by badly wired grow-ops. That fell to four last year.
Jeet-Kei Leung, a spokesman for the B.C. Compassion Club, said Health Canada could do more to ensure the medicine is grown safely.
“We certainly agree that there needs to be safe operation of any cultivation facilities for medicinal cannabis,” he said. “Currently there are no resources or support being offered around either effective use as a medicinal user or around production.”
“We understand the privacy issues and the medical reasons, we’re not disputing any of that,” Garis said. “We’re simply saying, ‘Let’s do it safely.'”
By Andy Ivens