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Organized crime exploiting medical marijuana program: RCMP


 

OTTAWA – The RCMP says organized criminal networks are taking advantage of Canada’s medical marijuana program to produce the drug and supply it to the illicit market.

A newly released intelligence report by the national police force warns that criminals are using family members and associates with clean police records to get around program safeguards.

“Gaining access to or control of a medical marijuana grow operation is highly desirable for criminal networks due to the array of opportunities it would present for the illicit production and diversion of high-grade medical marijuana,” says the report, which was completed in May 2012.

It also notes that screening an applicant through a criminal record check is insufficient to keep undesirable elements from infiltrating the program.

A heavily censored copy of the report was released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The findings follow numerous warnings and reports of illegal activity linked to Health Canada’s Marijuana Medical Access Regulations initiative.

The department has announced a complete reworking of the medical marijuana system — in part due to concerns about the risk of criminal exploitation.

Under the existing program, to be phased out by April 1, 2014, individuals are issued licences to grow marijuana for their personal use to help ease the symptoms of their medical conditions.

More than 30,000 people across the country are authorized to use the drug for medical purposes.

The Mounties have long advised that the illegal marijuana trade is a multibillion-dollar industry in Canada.

The RCMP report cites case studies that reveal criminal tactics for abusing the federal program, including:

— Producing marijuana in excess of the quantity allowed under a Health Canada permit — in one instance almost 80 kilograms annually, with a street value of more than $650,000;

— Circumventing federal safeguards by having a family member without a criminal conviction, such as a spouse, obtain a licence;

— Efforts by organized criminal groups to gain access to a licence through a complex web of associates.

“Criminal groups are currently exploiting Health Canada’s MMAR program,” says the report, adding “at least one high-level criminal organization — identified as a national level threat — is proactively seeking opportunities to exploit future MMAR guidelines currently being developed by Health Canada.”

In 2010, the RCMP said a review concluded that 70 licence holders were violating the terms of their agreements. In 40 of the cases, holders were trafficking marijuana.

Last month, CBC-TV aired an interview with a man from Nelson, B.C., identified only as Jack, who said he made about $120,000 a year selling the marijuana he cultivated using his medical licence.

Under Health Canada’s new medical marijuana program, individuals will no longer apply for licences to grow plants at home. Instead, licensed producers will cultivate marijuana for distribution to individuals whose health-care providers agree it is an appropriate treatment.

The government says the licensed producers will be subject to extensive security and quality-control requirements.

Those include security clearances for key personnel, alarm systems at growing facilities to detect intruders, and compliance and enforcement measures, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in an opinion piece published Wednesday by the Globe and Mail newspaper.

In addition, dried marijuana will be shipped through a secure delivery service directly to the address the client specifies, Aglukkaq said.

“Taken together, these measures will reduce the risks of diversion of marijuana to illicit markets.”


 
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Organized crime exploiting medical marijuana program: RCMP

  1. I applaud the government for a step in the right direction. This was a stupid, ill-conceived and scientifically unsupported program from the get-go. Better still would be to close the whole thing down. There are other anti-nauseants available that don’t attract criminal trafficking.

    • That’s like saying, “there’s other non-alcoholic wines available at government outlets that will don’t attract criminal trafficking”. Cannabis consumption is here to stay. How do you wanted it regulated? By organized crime, or like our liquor outlets in the provinces?

      • We have more than enough deaths annually from legal intoxicants (like your wine example). It would be utterly insane to legalize any substance that exacerbates the problem. Public intoxication and driving under the influence would explode if marijuana were legalized. I don’t want cannabis regulated, I want it eliminated. No we’ll never get it to zero, but it should be suppressed as much as possible.

        • Accidents due to alcohol consumption, fatal and non-fatal, have plummetted in BC since 1980 so I don’t know what you mean by “enough deaths from legal intoxicants” if the trend of highway carnage is clearly dropping. Marijauna does not “exacerbate” highway deaths or accidents unless you can prove it with research.

          The deadliest drug, tobacco, is now being used by fewer and fewer young people according to Health Canada. This success has been done without putting a single person in jail. Education and regulated cannabis control is a wise choice, otherwise you surrender drug distribution to violent gangs.

          The police have had nearly 100 years to repress cannabis and have utterly failed on every count. It’s time for a change, and it’s coming, like it has to Washington and Colorado.

          http://crimguy.com/2013/01/23/drug-seizures-in-nanaimo-fail-to-stop-trafficking/

        • yur dumb dooder!!

    • yur dumb dood!

  2. There is a problem with using case studies to justify a change in policy, in that it can be applied to other policies. In this case, the MMAR is being changed because of 30,000 users, around 0.5% were abusing it. This sounds like a case for more inspectors rather than changing the program to something that will decrease access and to a program that Canadian physicians have already announced their opposition to.

    It is true that a criminal record check is not always sufficient to prevent illegal drug activity from taking place. This would be true also in the case of Stuart Seib, the Merritt RCMP detachment commander who stole and used cocaine from the evidence locker (who will be left with no criminal record). By the logic above, we should get rid of the RCMP, who despite criminal record checks continue to engage in illegal activity, such as fraud, perjury, assault and sexual harassment.

    The new policy is much more limiting for patients, particularly for those who are no longer allowed to grow their own and will have to pay much higher prices. Also there is no allowance being made for edibles or concentrates.

    Despite the numerous barriers to research on cannabis, more and more is being published about its positive effects on inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathic pain, etc (for more information, read “Clearing the Smoke” by Igor Grant published in Open Access Neurology). What we need is improved access by patients and this new policy is not going to do that.

    Drug use is a public health issue that cannot be solved by incarcerating people. The actions above will do nothing to improve the health of our population and will not affect either the price or quantity of illegal cannabis.

  3. The organized crime links are a direct consquence of partially legalizing a controlled substance. We would see precisely the same consequences if alcohol was sold only for medical reasons for those who held a government-issued permit: organized crime would use the law to make a profit. That’s exactly what we’re doing now. The problem is NOT cannabis or its effects. The problem is the contraband status of a plant which every independent study and two Canadian commissions of inquiry tells us that its effects are relatively benign except for a minority of heavy users that smoke cannabis as opposed to other ingestion methods. The fact that the RCMP are willing guardians of cannabis laws is directly connected to their bureaucratic needs for funding and expansion. They have a significant role in demonizing cannabis users, whether their use is legitimate or not.

  4. The RCMP report is self-serving nonsense. There is only one reason why criminals can “exploit” the medical cannabis program, and that reason is the fact that the recreational use of cannabis is prohibited. Contrary to what the RCMP wants you to believe, prohibition (like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s) does absolutely nothing to reduce the number of people who use a drug, nor to reduce the supply. All it does is increase the price and profitability of the drug, and then give all that profit and power to criminals. In contrast, a legal and regulated market (like the market we have now for alcohol) leaves criminals with crumbs.

    If the RCMP or anyone else is serious about reducing crime and fighting gangs, the only way to achieve it is take their profits away by legalizing cannabis. The RCMP’s continued efforts to harass, arrest and jail recreational users will never succeed; are making gangsters rich and powerful; and are reducing patients who really need cannabis to “collateral damage”.

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