Marijuana exists in a funny limbo in this country.
Despite a growing number of people who feel it should be decriminalized, or outright legal – and regulated – it remains a controlled substance.
And, as such, we have a multibillion-dollar industry in Canada attempting to operate under the radar of the law.
Weed is grown covertly on farms, in houses, condos or industrial bays, but is used widely across the country.
Often, the grow sites are booby trapped, electricity is stolen, and the property is contaminated, both with chemicals used in growing and mold damage.
A fire at a Calgary grow op even levelled a number of homes in 2009. Police say there is also the risk of break-ins and home invasions associated with these things.
Despite all of these apparent dangers Albertans just don’t care, or aren’t aware.
That’s one of the key findings in a new provincial report prepared by Calgary MLA Rick Fraser, the associate minister of public safety.
“The prevalent view of marijuana use is that it is either used as a recreational drug or for medical purposes,” he says in the report.
“There is a misperception that growing marijuana is a victimless crime, and this perception detracts from community involvement in reporting suspected MGOs. Many Albertans do not report marijuana grow ops when they know or suspect a residence in their community has been converted into one. The crime is likely not viewed as a danger to the community.”
It’s not really until people find themselves living next to one that they perceive this as a problem.
And so, because of the damage done to homes and the potential risk to public safety, the final recommendations report for Grow Op Free Alberta lists a host of solutions to existing problems, including requiring real estate agents to disclose a home was used to grow pot, guidelines for proper and safe remediation and bumping up tools to identify grow ops.
The one solution missing? Legalization and regulation.
I get it – all the province can really do in its power is mitigate the damage, try to hold people accountable when properties are made unfit for habitation, and ensure that remediation is done properly.
But, as public attitude shifts towards acceptance of marijuana, and a desire that governments leave adults alone to smoke what they please, the province could also take the lead in pushing the feds to make changes to criminal law in Canada.
So long as the status quo exists, residential grows will remain a big problem, with thousands estimated to be operating in Alberta.
The recommendations in the report give significant focus toward education, but I think despite the emphasis placed on informing the public, I don’t think we’ll start to see an increase in police reports.
Even if more people start reporting grow ops, that won’t necessarily mean there will be a reduction in people looking to grow marijuana.
So long as the trend toward supporting decriminalization and legalization continues, the public will believe that the key is a change in federal drug laws, not provincial public safety endeavours, no matter how wise they may be.
When looking at people opting not to report grow ops, the reasons behind their complacency are key.
And, with as many as two thirds of Canadians in support of decriminalization or legalization, we shouldn’t be surprised people aren’t reporting grows, and perhaps it should be taken as further sign we’re ready for greater debate on the issue.
As we’re approaching a federal election in 2015, here’s hoping we get one.
Source: Calgary Sun, The
Copyright: 2014 The Calgary Sun
Author: Dave Breakenridge