No one is smoking 500 plants

The medical community was partially blamed last week for the problems Norfolk has encountered with legal marijuana grow-operations in the rural zone.Mayor Kristal Chopp took over-prescribing doctors to task in Ottawa and again at Governor Simcoe Square during a meeting of Norfolk council.Chopp made an issue of dubious prescriptions at the annual general meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). Chopp reiterated her suspicion that doctors are writing “fraudulent” prescriptions at council Aug. 22, the day after the AMO conference ended.Chopp made a presentation on the issue in Ottawa to the Western Ontario Wardens Caucus (WOWC), of which she is a member. WOWC represents 15 upper- and single-tier municipalities in south-western Ontario. Together, these municipalities are home to more than three million residents.“It was interesting in the room how split it was,” Chopp told Norfolk council last week.“Either there was a complete lack of knowledge of the distinction between a ‘licensed’ producer and a ‘designated’ producer — of course — the designated producers being the ones that are causing us the challenges. Then the other half of the room put their hands up to say they too have similar problems in their community.“There is an appetite to band together to put some pressure not only on the federal government from the licensing side of things, but also the provincial government in terms of these doctors who are issuing fraudulent, essentially, prescriptions for sometimes upward of 500 plants to patients for personal consumption. I’m pretty sure we all know no one is smoking 500 plants.”Chopp took it a step further near the end of last week’s conference in Ottawa when she came to the microphone during AMO’s annual “bear pit” session.The bear pit provides a forum for delegates to raise issues with Ontario cabinet ministers and provincial officials that were not on the conference agenda.Chopp encouraged officials in the attorney-general’s office to investigate physicians who regularly write prescriptions for large amounts of medical marijuana.Chopp’s concerns are not new. The Ontario Provincial Police have expressed concern in recent years that a significant amount of legal marijuana produced for medicinal purposes is finding its way onto the black market.The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) was asked last week to provide scenarios justifying the prescribing of hundreds of plants per year to an individual. Spokesperson Lisa Murray speculated it might have something to do with the potential for a large percentage of plants to die before reaching maturity. However, OMA had nothing further to say about Chopp’s allegation at press time Tuesday.Chopp makes the distinction between “licensed” producers – that is, grow operations regulated by Health Canada – and “designated” producers.Due to a court ruling involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, holders of prescriptions for medical marijuana can delegate responsibility for producing the cannabis they need to third-party growers.Whereas Health Canada has strict rules governing odour, security, light pollution and the like for federally-licensed grow facilities, no such oversight applies to designated growers.Designated growers can produce marijuana for up to four clients. If each client has a prescription for 500 plants a year, a grower can conceivably produce as many as 2,000 plants per annum.Many basic greenhouses in Norfolk and elsewhere have been given over to this purpose. Because they lack strict controls, the pungent aroma of marijuana fills the air as the plants inside reach maturity.Many people find the skunk-like odour offensive to the point of nausea and have – on occasion – sought relief by temporarily relocating themselves and their families to alternative lodgings.Norfolk’s planning department responded earlier this year with a dedicated set of regulations requiring specific setbacks for legal grow-ops from sensitive land uses such as homes, schools, churches, daycare centres, hospitals and the like.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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