Aprominent medical marijuana activist was in Chilliwack Tuesday to express his opposition to a Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) plan to restrict medical marijuana growing to industrial zones.
Sam Mellace has held a legal licence to grow marijuana for himself and others for 10 years, something he does at his rural Mission property.
Mellace says if the FVRD follows the City of Chilliwack lead and forces medical growers into industrial land, there won't be fewer problems with public safety and illegal activity, there will be more.
"What's going on in Chilliwack is making matters worse," he told the Times Tuesday. "What you want to do in Chilliwack, that's one thing, but this is our area.. .. It's not going to go down without a fight."
As of Oct. 1, the federal government was no longer issuing medical marijuana production licences to individuals to grow in their homes or commercial buildings. And as of April 1,
2014, the nearly 600 holders of medical marijuana grow licences in the City of Chilliwack will no longer be able to grow pot in their homes, businesses or agricultural properties.
Mellace is applying to be one of the large growers approved by Health Canada under the new system. He and his company New Age Medical Solutions with offices in Vancouver and Toronto, has produced, but cannot yet legally distribute, arthritic creams, throat lozenges, an "after-chemo" drink and other products for those who can't or won't smoke marijuana. He said his products are ready for clinical trials and he's ready to produce for patients.
Mellace lives in Area F of the FVRD and while he doesn't like the direction taken by Chilliwack to force potential applicants into a special industrial zone, that doesn't affect him.
What bothers him is that Mayor Sharon Gaetz is chair of the FVRD board and he thinks she is imposing her agenda onto rural areas in the district.
"We don't fit into Chilliwack," he said. "If she is going to invoke her style of industrial zoning on to us, I have to be leery."
Mellace said he agrees that growing should be taken out of residential neighbourhoods and he has lobbied for the RCMP to know the location of medical grow operations.
He isn't shy about letting politicians and others visit his location, which he keeps secure with fences, guard dogs, ground sensors and other high-tech security.
"I have no neighbours, no schools, no hospitals, I am nowhere near a public safety
risk," he said.
If growing is forced to go from small mom-andpop operations in rural areas into large industrial facilities, Mellace foresees a number of problems. Firstly, the sensitive plants could be subject to whatever is going on in adjacent industrial plants. Secondly, Mellace predicts more vulnerability to the black market as large growers will need to sell their product and if they don't have enough medical customers, the temptation will be great to sell illegally.
But mostly Mellace is concerned how the changes will affect prices as growers will have to spend enormous amounts of money to upgrade operations.
"This [FVRD] proposal is a desperate attempt to thwart new Health Canada regulations that set out stringent requirements for medical marijuana providers," Mellace said.
A decision on zoning for medical marijuana operations has not yet been made by the FVRD. Mellace attended the FVRD's Electoral Area Services committee meeting Tuesday but he said the issue was deferred over to the November meeting.
Meanwhile, Mellace has to get his application to Health Canada by Dec. 1 so he "doesn't have time to worry about" the FVRD.
He's hoping now that worst-case scenario his property will be grandfathered in and he'll be allowed to continue.
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