Medicinal marijuana production creates problem residential properties: A routine activity theory explanation and a situational prevention solution

Joseph Patrick Clare, Len Garis, Paul Maxim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Objectives. Illicit production of marijuana in residential properties creates significant health and safety problems. Health Canada grants licenses to individuals to produce medicinal marijuana for personal use, conditional on compliance with all appropriate regulations. Health Canada does not inspect licensees’ activities to monitor regulatory compliance and privacy legislation prevents Health Canada from sharing license holders’ details with third-parties. This research examines how effective this administrative structure is at preventing medicinal marijuana being produced in residential buildings by license holders.
Methods. The indoor production of marijuana requires substantial amounts of electricity. From 2005, addresses in Surrey (BC) with exceptionally high power consumption have been provided to the municipal government for the purposes of undertaking fire safety inspections. This paper examines the outcomes of inspections at 1,204 marijuana production sites (n = 252 medicinal and n = 952 illicit) to see whether the licensing process prevents marijuana production in residential buildings. The illicit production sites inspected by the City are used as a non-random comparison group for the medicinal sites.
Findings. This inspection process has increasingly identified medicinal (relative to illicit) production sites in recent years. Medicinal production operations were significantly less likely to be located in residential buildings. However, medicinal residential sites that were detected were located in equivalent parts of the City to the illicit residential operations. Medicinal residential production sites presented fewer electrical and biological safety problems relative to illicit production sites, but all medicinal residential production sites breached zoning and legislative requirements relating to land-use, building safety, and structural integrity.
Conclusions. The current administrative structure for licensing medicinal marijuana production does not prevent residential buildings being used as marijuana production sites. Routine activity theory is used as a platform to explain how additional situational prevention mechanisms can be utilized to prevent licensed medicinal marijuana production creating building health and safety problems into the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-167
Number of pages25
JournalCanadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


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