Nova Scotia

Medical marijuana licences misused: police

The arrests of two licensed marijuana growers in Nova Scotia has prompted a warning from police.
Marijuana plants flourish under grow lights at a warehouse in Denver. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)

The arrests of two licensed marijuana growers in Nova Scotia has prompted a warning from police.

Sgt. Keith MacKinnon, with the RCMP drug enforcement branch, said the misuse of these licences is an ongoing worry for drug investigators.

"It is a fairly common occurrence that we're seeing people growing more plants than they're allowed to," he told CBC News.

Last month, Halifax Regional Police said they caught a grower of medical marijuana making hash oil in his basement.

Then last week, police arrested another man with a licence after seizing 312 plants, though only 15 were allowed under the conditions of his licence.

MacKinnon said a scheme tracked to Newfoundland recently involved the sale of a how-to manual to obtain a licence by "duping the doctors."

"That's very alarming to police," he said.

MacKinnon said it's easy for organized criminals to work the system.

"Organized crime can very directly be involved in not necessarily duping people into getting it that have legitimate permits, but actually them being the ones that initially go out and get the permits and start growing way more plants than they're allowed," he said.

There are three kinds of medical marijuana licences available from Health Canada: authorization to possess dried marijuana, a personal use production licence and a licence to produce marijuana for no more than two people.

The regulations also state there can be no more than four licensed growers at the same site.

Leslie Meerburg, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, said the organization is no longer saying how many licensed medical marijuana growers it approves per province, citing privacy considerations.

There are 5,983 people in Canada who hold a licence to produce marijuana for personal use, Meerburg said in an email.

Health Canada also conducts inspections for those who hold a licence to produce medical marijuana, but would not say how often those inspections are done.

"Health Canada does not disclose information on investigative techniques or plans under the MMAR (Marijuana Medical Access Regulations)," said Meerburg.

According to Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia had the most licensed grow operations per capita last year — one for every 1,900 people. Ontario, on the other hand, had one for 8,000.