April 15, 2016 - 8:00 PM
‘I BELIEVE WE OWE IT TO THE PEOPLE OF THIS AREA TO NOT MOVE TOO QUICKLY ON THIS BYLAW’
DEEP CREEK - A member of a planning commission for rural Shuswap communities has put the brakes on a bylaw she fears infringes upon the rights of medical marijuana growers and patients, and not a moment too soon according to local cannabis activists.
Jenya Mudrie, a member of the electoral area ‘D’ Advisory Planning Commission in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, spoke up about her concerns at a meeting yesterday, April 14, in the community of Deep Creek, just outside of Enderby.
“These bylaws appear prejudicial against medical marijuana as presented,” Mudrie said at the meeting.
The draft bylaw is part of a revision to the Ranchero-Deep Creek Official Community Plan and would create a new ‘special industrial’ zone for medical marijuana production facilities in the communities of Falkland, Deep Creek, Ranchero, Salmon Valley, Silver Creek and Gardom Lake. Facilities would only be permitted within that zone and residences would not be allowed on the same property.
While it appears the bylaw may have been intended to regulate large-scale marijuana production facilities only, Mudrie fears it could negatively impact residents who grow their own.
“Medical marijuana is sometimes produced on agricultural land as a small, legal, home occupation, growing medication for people with some serious medical issues recognized by doctors and Health Canada,” she said.
Due to the high value of medical marijuana, Mudrie also felt the new zoning could lead to safety issues.
“This will be making a target map for everyone, including possible criminal element who will not be obtaining licenses,” she said.
In February, a Federal Court judge struck down regulations restricting the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own medicine. The ruling came as a result of a constitutional challenge launched by a B.C. man, Neil Allard, and three others who argued changes to Health Canada’s medical marijuana system — which required patients to buy cannabis from approved suppliers instead of growing their own — violated their charter rights.
Mudrie urged the commission and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District to review the Allard ruling before finalizing any new bylaws regarding medical marijuana.
“I fear a heavy legal battle may result if this is not done first,” she said.
She also encouraged the commission’s other three members to put off any further readings of the bylaw until members of the public are made aware of it.
“I feel the community should have more time to put this before a public meeting, notified well in advance, mentioning medical marijuana in the notice….” she said. “To do otherwise may put the Columbia Shuswap Regional District in a position to have to deal with appeal and repeal.”
Due to the new information, the commission voted to delay any decision on the bylaw until April 27, when they will be meeting again.
‘NOBODY KNEW ABOUT THIS’
Jeff Gaudette, a Vernon dispensary owner and member of the Cannabis Rights Coalition, only learned of Thursday’s meeting through an anonymous source the night before it happened.
“Nobody knew about this,” he said. “It wasn’t broadcast on their website at all, and it’s been kind of done behind closed doors.”
He immediately contacted the Cannabis Rights Coalition and their legal team about the draft bylaw, which he says is prejudicial and discriminatory to medical marijuana patients.
“It’s very muddy. It needs clarification to make sure they aren’t going to be disrupting the injunction that was just held against the Government of Canada to allow every Canadian the right to grow,” Gaudette said.
He says the majority of licensed medical marijuana growers in B.C. are concentrated within the Columbia Shuswap region.
“There are over 20,000. It’s actually called the Emerald Triangle, similar to a section of California that grows a lot of the medical marijuana there, same goes for here.We have the largest amount of patient-base being in the Columbia Shuswap,” Gaudette said.
Gaudette attended the meeting and plans to be at the next one as well. Had the commission simply endorsed the bylaw as is, Gaudette believes it could have been approved by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and implemented without the public really knowing about it.
“Hopefully we can get them to change their direction on this,” he said.
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