Kelowna council eases restrictions on medical marijuana growing areas

After a lengthy public hearing, council adds another industrial zone where growing would be allowed and will consider agricultural land.

Kelowna city council wants to be a little less restrictive when it comes to where medical marijuana can be grown in the city.

Heading into Tuesday night’s public hearing on a proposed change to three industrial zones to allow licenced commercial growing operations, the city was not looking to allow it in it’s broadest industrial zone–I1–  or in any agricultural zones.

But, after hearing from growers and members of the public during the three-hour public hearing, council changed its position and will now look at allowing it on land zoned I-1 and on agricultural land on a case-by-case basis.

The public hearing attracted about 50 people , including the owner of a new federal growing licence from Whistler. His licence is one of just five in B.C. The others are on Vancouver Island, in Maple Ridge and one somewhere in the Okanagan, believed to be in the Osoyoos area.

Following the public hearing, council approved the proposed bylaw, which would allow medical marijuana to be produced in properly licenced indoor facilities on land in the I-2, I-3 and I-4 zones and asked staff to prepare an amendment to the I-1 zone. I-1 zoned land is often located closer to residential areas than the other three zones and allows for multi-tenant use of a building.

City staff said the issue will be compatibility of use with other tenants.

The moves were made after council was shown that there are facilities, built to the new federal standards, that were already operating on I-1 land near residential areas and were not a problem.

In fact, their existence was not known by the surrounding neighbourhood.

The federal government has changed the rules regarding the production of medical marijuana in Canada, banning its production by licensed home-growing operations. Now it can only be produced in commercial facilities licensed by Health Canada that comply with local zoning rules.

In addition to preparing a new bylaw for the I-1 zone, city staff were also asked to report back to council about allowing production on agricultural land, something council has been against in the past.

While the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission has said growing medical marijuana on agricultural land in this province would be acceptable, several municipalities, including Kelowna and West Kelowna, have been against allowing that.

But after the public hearing, Kelowna council felt the initial bylaw was too restrictive.

In a 5-2 vote, it defeated the part of the proposed bylaw that excluded use of agricultural land.

While the city does not have the final say on whether a licence will be issued for a commercial medical marijuana growing operation, the federal government has said that any operations must meet municipal zoning regulations.