As expected, Kelowna city council has made its first move to restrict new federally licensed medical marijuana growing operations to industrial land.
Council voted to give initial acceptance to a recommendation from city staff Monday after being told three areas of industrial land — those zoned for general industrial (I-2 zone), heavy industrial (I-3 zone) and central industrial (I-4 zone)—are more suitable for the type of operations Ottawa is now licensing than farmland would be.
City staff said they considered allowing the new operations in the I-1 zone but felt that could create too many conflicts as the I-1 zones allows for light industrial that is often located too close to residential areas.
While the federal government has already started to shut down previously licensed home medical marijuana growing operations, it is not known exactly how it will proceed with the new commercial operations that will be allowed after April 1.
The federal changes started to take place last July and will be fully implemented as of April 1.
But while council agreed the new, larger commercial operations would be better suited to industrial areas—where the indoor and properly ventilated operations must meet stringent security measures—it is not happy with the lack of information Health Canada is providing to make sure that the smaller, home growing operations they are replacing will be shut down properly.
Council was told the RCMP and city bylaw officials are currently putting together a plan but Heath Canada has not told the city where all the licensed home operations are located.
“It looks like its up to our bylaw people and our RCMP to deal with this without any resources from Health Canada,” said Coun. Colin Basran. “I have a concern with that.”
Coun. Maxine DeHart was more blunt in here summation of the problem.
“I don’t know it (Health Canada) though this through,” she told her council colleagues Monday. “It’s really appalling.”
Under the new rules, anyone wanting to operate a federally licensed commercial medical marijuana growing operation will have to apply directly to Health Canada and will only be considered if they meet local zoning and business licence criteria set out by the municipality in which they want to locate.
To date only eight of the new commercial licences have been approved — five in Ontario, one in Saskatchewan and two in B.C. The B.C. licences are in Maple Ridge and on Vancouver Island.
City Clerk Stephen Fleming said its unclear if any will be approved for Kelowna.
Despite that, he said, the city has heard from about 20 potential applicants, some more serious than others.
In addition to the zoning amendments, which will go to a public hearing March 18, the city is also creating a new business licence category that includes criteria that is the same as the criteria set out by Health Canada, such as the need for proper security, ventilation and other health and safety measures.
Concerns about the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission saying earlier that the new medical marijuana commercial growing operations could be allowed on agricultural land appeared to be put to rest when city staff told council because the city will only allow them on industrial property, its unlikely the commission would allow land in the Agricultural Land Reserve to be rezoned industrial to allow such a use.
In dealing with the issue, Kelowna has followed the lead of several other B.C. municipalities in restricting the placement of potential future commercial medical marijuana growing facilities to industrial land.