SURREY — Medicinal marijuana users who grow their own herb may have to pay a steep inspection fee and high repair costs once federal legislation takes effect next year to limit medical grow-ops to commercial zones.
Surrey city council recently approved amendments to the Controlled Substance Property Bylaw that will require owners of residential properties containing medical marijuana grow-ops to remediate the facilities in order to protect future owners from health risks associated with growing the plant.
The amendment complies with the federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which will restrict all medical marijuana grow operations to commercial buildings as of April 1, 2014.
Council also approved an increase of the inspection fee charged by the Electrical Fire Safety Initiative – the assessment team made up of members of the Surrey Fire Department and city staff – from $4,038 to $5,263 in order to ensure the EFSI program remains “self-funded.”
“If you look at the amount of resources by various law enforcement agencies that it would take to go into a home and the time, we just don’t believe that the taxpayer should be footing the bill for that,” said Coun. Barinder Rasode.
“We believe the homeowner who reaps the benefits of having the medicinal marijuana grow-op should pay it.”
Rasode said 70 per cent of the municipal budget goes toward fire services, bylaw services and RCMP, and the city wants to ensure that money is spent wisely.
According to Health Canada – the federal health authority that distributes medical marijuana licences – Surrey has approximately 788 medical grow-ops. If all 788 were inspected and charged the maximum rate, the city would bring in more than $4.1 million for the EFSI.
However, Rasode noted that the $5,263 fee drops significantly if homeowners make extensive repairs to their properties within 60 days of ceasing pot growth.
“We’re just concerned about those who aren’t disclosing to us and will have health and safety impacts,” she said. “All you need is one home catching ablaze in a neighbourhood and it could affect the neighbourhood.”
A full inspection by the EFSI can be quite time-consuming and takes into account such health and safety risks as air contamination, unsafe wiring and fungi. The city has a laundry list of requirements to remediate a home, including replacing or disinfecting all walls, floors, insulation, moisture barriers and ceilings; removing and disposing of all carpets and curtains; and cleaning the furnace, air ducts and ventilation system.
“In the early days, our staff went into homes and we were finding accumulations of mould six, seven inches deep in the rafters in the ceiling,” said Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis. “There’s quite a variety of different things that have been discovered in the past.
“This process is intended to bring them back to some reasonable level of safety.”
When the MMPR comes into effect, the EFSI will conduct inspections of known medical marijuana grow-ops. According to the corporate report that went before council, the EFSI has identified and inspected about 250 buildings on its own, most of which were single-family dwellings.
While Health Canada supplies the medical licences, it keeps the locations of medical grow-ops confidential, but the city is still pushing for a definitive map of all locations.
“They have not yet agreed to disclose the location of all of them, but that’s something that the City of Surrey will continue to pursue,” said Rasode.
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