Penalizing improper usage of a personal cannabis licence may prove too challenging in West Lincoln.
“Law enforcement is on the outside looking in,” Niagara Regional Police Service 8 District Staff Sergeant Rom DiEgidio told council members when he and Chief of Police Bryan MacCulloch recently presented at committee.
It is extremely difficult to investigate cannabis licence infractions and lead to a charge or conviction, he said.
Drug-related calls are on the rise in West Lincoln from residents who are smelling and seeing things they don’t like, he said, which was totally expected with cannabis legalization.
DiEgidio explained that Health Canada regulates both commercial and personal cannabis licensing but while the commercial stream is highly regulated and he said the governing body is constantly on top of these folks, it’s the personal licensing that gets tricky.
Sure, a doctor may prescribe a certain amount of cannabis for a diagnosed condition and a personal licence may be issued, but he said the licensee is then supposed to get permission from the township.
CAO Bev Hendry confirmed that zero requests have come through West Lincoln, meaning none of the personal licences abide by proper procedure and regulations.
On the enforcement end, DiEgidio said it is extremely difficult to get on a property, investigate and lay a charge in these cases because they have a legal license.
“Your plan of attack is really zoning bylaw, building standards and fire safety.”
He said the township could charge a person with a bylaw infraction – zoning, building standards or fire safety – then further charges could be laid if investigation proves over-production.
When issues come up, detectives are happy to work with the township on specific cases, but he admitted that it would take an enormous amount of work to get one conviction.
Coun. Mike Rehner asked whether fire inspectors could check in on suspected locations to see whether they meet qualifications, to which Fire Chief Dennis Fisher replied that they don’t have authority to enter a private building without permission.
Under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, Fisher said they can only force entry when there is an immediate threat to live.
The NRPS is currently lobbying Health Canada to try to get more inspectors to check licenses, said DiEgidio, but he can’t say for certain what’s going to happen from there.
MacCulloch added that what the township is experiencing is really no different than many other community across Ontario.
“Organized crime will take the path of least resistance and right now the medicinal marijuana path is the path that’s the most lucrative for them.”
What council may want to consider, he suggested, is writing a letter to Health Canada and asking a representative to meet with and answer questions from councillors and constituents.