Public hearing on medical marijuana grow operations will be held Feb. 3 at town hall

By on December 18, 2013
Todd Zatwarniski (left), a security expert, and former RCMP drug enforcement officer Lou Helmes, made a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council Monday on behalf of the Vancouver-based company they work for called Canna-Pharma Inc. That company has applied to the town for a license to operate a commercial medical marijuana grow operation facility. (Keith Lacey photo)

Todd Zatwarniski (left), a security expert, and former RCMP drug enforcement officer Lou Helmes, made a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council recently on behalf of the Vancouver-based company they work for called Canna-Pharma Inc. That company has applied to the town for a license to operate a commercial medical marijuana grow operation facility. (Keith Lacey photo)

Local citizens will have their opportunity to voice their concerns and support for or against the Town of Osoyoos potentially approving a large-scale medical marijuana grow operation (MMGO) at a public hearing scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3.

Two weeks ago, town council discussed a formal application to seek a business license from Canna-Pharma Inc. a new business from Vancouver that is interested in opening a large commercial MMGO in the town’s industrial park.

During that meeting in early December, council directed staff to formulate an approach to processing applications for an MMGO in industrial areas, including rezoning requirements, evaluation criteria and opportunities for public input.

The federal government announced several months ago that is was scrapping its longstanding practice of granting individual licenses to Canadians who qualified to obtain medical marijuana to grow their own or have someone grow it for them. There were more than 450,000 personal licenses granted across the country.

The new system will see the government approve 170 large-scale MMGO’s across the country. These huge operations will not only grow medical marijuana, but will work with medical professionals to dispense the finished product to Canadians with approved prescriptions.

The government will no longer grant any new personal licenses effective April 1 next year.

Steve Shannon from the town’s planning department prepared a report presented to town council on Monday that stated “council may approve a rezoning application for an MMGO as a site-specific permitted use in the general industrial zone.’

To ensure that council is able to consider potential impacts with respect to public safety, health and welfare, nuisances such as smell and the environment, the bylaw also requires all rezoning applications include a description of all discharges to air, sanitary sewers, streams or groundwater and the protection of potable water as well as a ventilation plan which includes a description of how the system prevents offensive odours from leaving the building, said Shannon.

Staff also recommended to council that any potential MMGO only be permitted indoors in stand-alone buildings, no other uses be permitted in a building containing an MMGO, including a dwelling unit, and any MMGO meet all municipal, provincial and federal regulations.

Even though MMGO’s will be regulated through new federal regulations, local municipalities will have the ability to regulate activity through land use regulations, said Shannon.

The proposed zoning amendments for MMGOs in industrial zones “meet the intent of the new medical marijuana for medical purposes regulations by keeping MMGO’s out of residential neighbourhoods.

“Staff are of the opinion that MMGO’s are better suited to the general industrial area because these lands are better serviced and are easier to mitigate concerns related to fire and public safety.”

Other communities have experienced problems with MMGOs in buildings that have had other commercial or industrial uses at the same time, so to avoid this problem staff has recommended that MMGO’s only be permitted in stand-alone buildings with no other uses permitted, he said.

Mayor Stu Wells thanked Shannon for his report and said he’s convinced that the town’s industrial park would be the only appropriate location for a MMGO in this community.

Coun. Michael Ryan said he hoped the public meeting on this issue could wait until the spring when more local residents return home after spending the winter months away from Osoyoos.

However, chief administrative officer Barry Romanko said with the new federal regulations coming into effect in early April, council should have an action plan in place as quickly as possible.

“The longer you put off passing the bylaw, the longer it will be before anyone could get a business started,” he said.

Coun. C. J. Rhodes said written submissions are being accepted from members of the public in relation to this controversial subject and they will hold equal merit with concerns expressed at the public hearing.

A staff recommendation originally planned the public hearing for January 21, but several members of council said it would be better to hold it the following week as more local residents will have returned home after spending the winter out of town.

Municipalities across Canada will be going through a similar process to determine if they want to support the concept of MMGOs in their community.

The public hearing will take place on Feb. 3 in council chambers beginning at 7 p.m. All members of council are expected to attend.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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