Comment: December 2018
By Grant Cameron
So, it’s official. Recreational use of cannabis is now legal in Canada. Let the games begin.
Whatever your position on pot, the move is sure to affect fire departments across the country – on both the safety front and in the pocketbook.
Let me explain.
Cannabis comes with its own set of fire hazards, particularly in residential settings. At least that’s what the experience in Colorado has shown us. There have been instances of grow sites, mostly illegal, that have resulted in fires because of issues with overloaded circuits and heat lamps.
So-called butane honey oil extraction – one method of processing cannabis at home – is extremely dangerous and can pose a safety hazard. It involves using a strong flammable solvent, usually butane, but sometimes propane, to extract THC and produce a highly-potent marijuana derivative.
The fire service in London, Ont., knows this all too well. Firefighters there have already responded to a number of such calls. Last December, for example, an explosion in the basement of a home caused by cannabis processing blasted the bricks off the outside of the house and seriously injured a man.
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office reports that it has probed 40 butane extraction-related fires or explosions in the last five years. The fire department in Halifax, N.S., meanwhile, has also had to deal with fires caused by illegal grow ops.
Apart from the safety side of things, though, legalization of weed will put a financial squeeze on fire departments and municipalities, as they’ll have to fork out more money for education, training and inspections.
In Colorado, for example, fire code violations increased significantly as a result of the legalization of marijuana.
Last year, the government announced $274 million for border efforts and police training related to legalization of marijuana. But the fire service also needs funding.
Governments, both federal and provincial, are in for a tax windfall when weed is legalized. A study conducted by business services firm Deloitte figures the total impact of the legal cannabis market on the Canadian economy will amount to between $12.7 billion and $22.6 billion annually.
Fire departments across Canada deserve to be funded appropriately. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has called on the feds to provide more money to fire departments because legalization of pot will result in increased costs for training, inspections and education. The association made its point crystal clear when it provided feedback to the feds on the issue.
Costs of the added duties will put further strain on already under-resourced fire departments. They shouldn’t be on the hook for the costs.