News

Norfolk police board, county seek answers on personal grow-ops

By Susan Gamble, Brantford Expositor

(File photo)

(File photo)

SIMCOE - 

Health Canada is handing out licences for people to grow marijuana for personal use, but the question of who will be monitoring that growth has stymied both the Norfolk police board and council.

"The federal government allows the licence but who's following up on this?" asked Mayor Charlie Luke at this week's police board meeting.

"Who's checking to see that they're abiding by the licence? Is it the feds? The OPP? Certainly it's not the county and I'm thinking these personal grow operations are going to be way out of control."

While large commercial marijuana greenhouses have been set up in the county without issue, Norfolk county council has been receiving complaints about the smaller grow-ops due to the size of the 'personal' operations and the strong smells wafting out to roads and neighbouring properties.

Norfolk County currently has staff looking into what the county can and can't do under its mandate. A report comes back to council next month.

But meanwhile, interim Norfolk County OPP detachment commander Shawn Nash said his police service is waiting for much more information in order to know how to tackle current complaints.

"We're awaiting additional information so we know what steps we must take to prepare our members. There are a lot of things to consider."

Nash told the board the OPP can, at this point, at least determine whether a grow-op is a licensed operation if a complaint comes in.

While Mayor Luke has said there have been no issues with the large scale commercial marijuana growing operations, there are serious complaints about small growers who have a licence from Health Canada to produce marijuana for personal use or for others. A person with a Health Canada licence can designate a grower to produce marijuana for them.

In one case in Norfolk, one property has ensured it has multiple county addresses and can grow for four licences at each address.

Complaints from neighbours have especially focused on a strong odour that comes from the greenhouses.

"I have visited (one complained of) site on more than one occasion," said Luke.

"The smell on Concession 14 at night is horrendous. I don't know how people stand it."

Luke said he can smell the marijuana when just driving past the area with his windows rolled up and the odour remains on his clothes more than 20 minutes after a visit. He said he was frustrated at the differences between a commercial operation and personal grow-ops.

Nash told the board the OPP will initiate investigations if a complaint is made about a personal grow-op, but the police would have to consider "a lot of factors" before entering the property.

He said the police have the power to check with Health Canada about how many plants are covered under a licence and would have the power to lay charges if there are more plants in a small grow-op than are allowed.

The board discussed whether any regulations could be considered under insurance issues or fire code rules.

Luke noted the entire issue is complicated by the fact that when a doctor issues a prescription to use marijuana to deal with pain, the prescription is by grams and Health Canada calculates how many plants the user is allowed to grow in order to harvest that many grams.

"Not everyone grows the same amount – it's determined by the physician."

Police board chair Peter Hellyer said the board has to "get out in front" of this issue.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, OPP and the Saskatoon Police Service have told the government they need more time to train officers about the new laws, more time for public education and more officers to work on roadside drug impaired driving tests.

Brantford Expositor

SGamble@postmedia.com