City council hazy on how marijuana facilities will be taxed

VERNON - The medical marijuana debate at Vernon City Hall isn’t revolving around the controversial nature of the plant, but on how to tax the facilities that produce it.

City councillors have been sitting on a proposed medical marijuana bylaw for weeks, and Monday opted to wait a little longer.

“We need clarification on how B.C. Assessment will assess facilities and how they will assess property improvements,” Mayor Rob Sawatzky says.

How B.C. Assessment chooses to assess production facilities will likely govern where the City of Vernon permits them to operate. The original understanding was no matter where the facilities are located, they would be taxed as agricultural enterprises, Sawatzky says. That’s why the city was initially going to restrict them to agricultural lands.

“The issue is we as a city have to provide services, and having facilities (on industrial lands) taxed as agricultural, we couldn’t recover the costs,” Sawatzky says.

Since then, they’ve learned B.C. Assessment doesn’t assess property improvements based on the agricultural rate, but on what the building is being used for. That means the city could allow them on light industrial lands and collect industrial tax on any improvements. But only if the system stays as is.

“Now it looks like B.C. Assessment is changing the way they assess improvements on properties,” Sawatzky says.

Council deferred giving first reading to the bylaw until staff confirms how B.C. Assessment will handle medical marijuana facilities.

The second part of the amendment moved by Coun. Brian Quiring to allow marijuana facilities in light industrial zones was to also permit the buildings to be multi-tenant.

“I think restricting that type of a facility to being a standalone is maybe a little shortsighted,” Quiring says. “I think maybe there might be developers looking to put up a large building and have one component (be) a production facility.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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