Wednesday July 30, 2014





Human rights complaint proceeds against ministry

Family threatened with apprehension of children over medical marijuana grow-op

Brad Olson and Angela Ferguson

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has a month to respond to a complaint filed by a Kamloops family threatened with the apprehension of their children over a medical marijuana grow-op.

Brad Olson and Angela Ferguson believe they were the victims of a bogus tip when police and social workers arrived on their doorstep in November.

Police determined that the 34 cannabis plants Olson was growing were compliant with his medical marijuana licence. Olson suffers from a work-related spinal cord injury and uses leaf-extract to manage his pain.

Ministry social workers, however, threatened to immediately apprehend the couple's three children. They relented only on condition that the couple have the home inspected, which proved costly and revealed no deficiencies.

The couple went public last month with their intention to pursue a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over the matter.

"It's something that's going to become more prevalent," Ferguson said. "Health Canada has given us the legal right and that proves (the ministry's) obtuse position."

The tribunal felt the couple's complaint is so unique that it expedited the file and promptly served notice to the ministry, she said.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development can ask to have the matter mediated or brought before a full hearing of the tribunal.

While not commenting on the case specifically, the ministry maintained that its social workers acted in the best interest of the children. A general policy statement indicated that the ministry does not distinguish between legal and illegal grow-ops.

The City, meanwhile, has postponed a public hearing on medical grow-ops until spring. The decision to delay the hearing was made in response to Ottawa's decision to review its medical marijuana access program. City staff will update council on Tuesday about the federal plans.

But any changes in the Health Canada program will take years to implement, Ferguson believes. She regrets the hearing delay.

"We would like the opportunity to give input to the municipality on a policy that makes more sense," she said.

Health Canada plans to revert to contractors only rather than issuing medical marijuana licences, which has been the practice for the past dozen years. That could make the product unaffordable to many licensees who have limited incomes due to serious health problems. Ferguson expects many will feel compelled to violate the law.

The comment period for proposed changes closes Feb. 23.

"It will take years to review the policy and there will be legal challenges. It's two to three years down the pipeline, I figure. I think the city should be proceeding now."


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