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Legal grow-ops cause concern among Abbotsford authorities
In the wake of a fire at a legal marijuana grow-op in Abbotsford, the chief of Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service is supporting Health Canada's proposed regulations to make such operations safer.
Don Beer said he agrees with a statement by Len Garis, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. (FCABC), that "taking marijuana production out of homes and into a licensed commercial environment is a step in the right direction."
Beer said he is happy to see that Health Canada has committed to inspecting and auditing medical marijuana producers to make sure they comply with all regulatory requirements.
"We would like to see them take a further step and ensure that all previous residential growing sites are remediated, and that future buyers are made aware that these homes were previously used to grow marijuana," he said.
On Tuesday, AFRS were called to a fire at a medical marijuana growing facility in the 28000 block of Townshipline Road.
The fire was contained to a powerhouse building on the site, and the main production building was not involved in the fire.
But Beer said the incident draws attention to the issue of how these operations are regulated.
"The type of fire experienced … can be very dangerous for citizens as well as firefighters due to the electrocution hazard it presents."
Legal grow-ops are regulated by Health Canada, and there have been concerns over safety issues and their connections to the illegal drug trade.
These safety concerns include the local government's inability to zone, license and inspect them based on Health Canada not providing notification as to where the operations are located.
Garis stressed that fire officials have never been concerned about the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
"Our focus is on how medical marijuana is grown. The fact is medical marijuana has typically been grown in a residential setting, which is not suitable or safe for growing marijuana.
"The fire service across Canada has been raising the alarm about the fire and safety risks associating with growing marijuana indoors for many years."
Stephen Gamble, president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, said an average of one in 22 legal and illegal grow-ops catch fire, which is 24 times higher than the average home.
He applauds Health Canada's strengthened regulations for medical marijuana grow-ops.
The federal Ministry of Health recently announced that changes will be made to the way Canadians access marijuana for medical purposes.
In the past decade, the program has grown from under 500 authorized people to more than 26,000.
The federal government says it plans to implement the system by March 31, 2013, at which point all current licenses to possess or produce pot would expire.