Entrepreneur sees medical marijuana production as 'economic opportunity'

The District of West Kelowna is progressing with its plans to have medical marijuana production limited to industrial lands.

Council gave third reading to the zoning amendment bylaw in a six to one vote Tuesday. If the bylaw is passed, commercial medical marijuana operations would be prohibited on agricultural land and in multi-unit buildings, unless all tenants are growers.

However, the bylaw gives two site specific text amendments for a pair of multi-unit properties—1352 Industrial Rd. and 2322 Dominion Rd.—that have in stream applications with Health Canada.

Trent Kitsch, the owner of two buildings at 2322 Dominion Road, spoke to council at the public hearing Tuesday.

"I've been to a number of council meetings, and the number one driver for our community is often referred to as economic development," said Kitsch.

"I think this is a prime example and an opportunity for the District of West Kelowna to have a part of our community thrive in economic development."

Kitsch said medical marijuana production has been misconceived as "an illegal or shady business," even though it's legal and endorsed by Health Canada.

"I recognize, as an entrepreneur, (it's) just an economic opportunity."

He added his property at 2322 Dominion Rd. has been producing medical marijuana for almost two years.

"It's been under the watchful eye of inspections. We've worked with Westside Fire Rescue, we've worked with District of West Kelowna bylaw's building permitting staff.

"It's a pharmaceutical business, it's going to be quality-assured, logged-in, logged-out, 24-hour surveillance…so it's a very professionally run organization."

If the district gives final reading to the bylaw as it currently stands, Kitsch plans to purchase the building at 1352 Industrial Road, which he said currently sits vacant, unoccupied and for sale.

"We'll be tenanted, we'll be invested upon, we'll create jobs, we'll create tax revenues."

The only councillor to vote against the zoning amendment bylaw Tuesday was Coun. Rick de Jong. In a previous council meeting, he argued the district may lose out on tax revenue by limiting commercial medical marijuana production to industrial land.

Coun. Duane Ophus said it was important to move forward with the bylaw.

"I think it's really important that we get whatever regulation of this issue that we can in place as quickly as possible…whether we completely like it or not. And I don't completely like it," said Ophus.

Twitter: @PatersonWade


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