Ottawa officials studying impact of new marijuana rules

A federal move to switch medical marijuana production from homes to businesses is drawing the scrutiny of Ottawa city officials.
The City of Ottawa hopes bylaws will be followed when Health Canada gives medical pot licenses. 2:04

Ottawa city officials are expressing concerns about new medicinal marijuana facilities that could be on their way to the capital.

Thousands of medicinal marijuana users are currently allowed to grow their supply at home, but by next year all production will be moved to licensed commercial plants.

City planners said they're giving their feedback before federal regulations are finalized.

"(We want to make sure) that you don't have a potentially heavily fortified premise abutting a main street or a residential area. This should be among other industrial plants . . . in industrial parks," said Arlene Gregoire, Ottawa's chief building official.

Municipalities asked for feedback

Gregoire and other city officials will forward their concerns, including questions over the size of any potential operations, to city council before getting in touch with federal officials.

"They have to ensure the buildings are impenetrable so I'm sure they would require fortified fences … limited barbed wire," she said. "They have to confirm to our bylaws."

Some city councillors said they're concerned about the impact of legal growing operations in their city.

"I know it's for medical use purposes, it just sends the wrong message to the kids," said Orleans councillor Bob Monette.

"It's not for me or the city to challenge Health Canada," said Kanata South councillor Allan Hubley. "If they say there’s a need … so be it."

City officials said they haven't received any formal applications yet, but predict there may be as many as two medical marijuana facilities built in the area.

Gregoire added a would-be grower has already approached a municipality near Kingston.

Safety cited as one reason for switch

Health minister Leona Aglukkaq announced the changes to Canada's medical marijuana laws on Dec. 16, 2012.

A news release said the national growth from 500 people authorized to grow their own supply in 2002 to over 26,000 at that time has made an impact, including for fire departments.

"An average of one in 22 grow operations (legal and illegal) catch fire, which is 24 times higher than the average home," said Stephen Gamble, president of the Canadians Association of Fire Chiefs in the news release.

Aglukkaq also said people were hiding behind the production of medical marijuana in their homes to conduct other illegal activities.

Health Canada said it would be taking feedback until the end of the month, with plans to start the new system this spring and have it fully in place by March 31, 2014.