B.C. government raises alarm by going after addresses of medicinal marijuana growers
Provincial law enforcement agencies appear to be pushing Health Canada to hand over the personal information of more than 16,500 British Columbians licensed to produce medicinal marijuana, a top pot advocate has warned.
“The cops want to know who was growing marijuana so they can go knock on their doors,” said Dana Larsen, former campaign coordinator for the Sensible B.C. campaign to decriminalize cannabis. “Anybody who got involved in this program in good faith is, I’m sure, feeling pretty darn betrayed right now.”
Larsen was speaking to the Straight about an September 2013 briefing note prepared for B.C. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.
Though heavily redacted, the document lists a number of concerns the province has with medicinal marijuana regulation changes scheduled to take effect on April 1.
Larsen characterized as most prominent law enforcement agencies’ wish for the federal government to share locations associated with the medicinal marijuana production licenses that are set to expire. (With the switch from the old rules to the Conservatives’ new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation, licence holders will only be allowed to purchase dried cannabis via mail order.)
“Health Canada, citing privacy concerns, does not intend to disclose the addresses of former licensed grow operations once they are no longer permitted to legally grow marijuana,” the memo states, later emphasizing: “There is need for two-way information sharing between Health Canada and local governments, fire, and police to ensure that any criminal or safety concerns uncovered during inspections are communicated to the relevant body for follow-up.”
The B.C. Ministry of Justice declined to make a representative available for an interview. According to an emailed statement sent by public affairs officer Niki Pandachuck, the province supports the regulatory changes; however, “There are concerns about the transition to the new regime.”
“The ministry believes Health Canada should take steps to prevent the potential diversion of marijuana during and after that transition and to ensure production ceases at these locations,” the email reads.
The briefing note was also reviewed by British Columbia Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn. In a telephone interview, she told the Straight that despite the extent to which the report has been censored, there’s plenty left there that’s cause for alarm.
“We have the Ministry of Justice of British Columbia claiming that it has legitimate concerns with Health Canada and refusing to disclose those to the public,” Vonn explained. “What is left in this document looks rather like the Ministry of Justice of British Columbia is itching to get into a witch hunt against disabled people.”
She argued that the province should be assisting sick people through a regulatory change instead of helping criminalize access to a substance used to manage health conditions.
“It is dismaying, to say the least, that the Ministry of Justice policing and security branch appears to be advocating for Health Canada to disclose patient lists in order to essentially expedite the horror show that is coming down the pipe for people who require these medications,” Vonn said.