By Robyn Stubbs
The legal avenues for growing pot legally in B.C. are more convoluted than a corn maze.
People with licenses issued by Health Canada to use marijuana for its medicinal benefits not only deal with municipal bylaws and Health Canada regulations, but they have to surrender their personal information to police so they won't get busted.
And all this red tape is driving people with legal permits to obtain their marijuana illegally through Compassion Clubs, said the founder and director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, Philippe Lucas.
"Compassion Clubs (across Canada) are serving about 10,000 people right now," said Lucas. "And we supply over half of the legal exemptees in Canada. Ironically enough, after going through the onerous application process, you still end up at a Compassion Club to get a good source of (marijuana) medicine."
According to the latest national tally by Health Canada, there are 943 people licensed to have pot for medical purposes, 181 of whom live in B.C.
But only 18 per cent subscribe to government-grown weed, while 74 per cent are allowed to grow their own. That means nearly 700 home-grow operations in Canada, and more than 100 in B.C.
"If Health Canada allowed people to grow co-operatively, it would be very likely they would have to monitor far less grow operations," Lucas said.
Vancouver police spokesman Tim Fanning said yesterday that legal pot grow-ops have been busted several times, and while they try to check with Health Canada on the status of a suspected grow op, they aren't always able to get confirmation of a license.
However, Christopher Williams, Health Canada's spokesman for medicinal marijuana, said they share personal information about a licensee with law enforcement, and recent amendments to the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations Act force all applicants to share their information with police.