January 03, 2014 - 8:24 AM
VERNON - Smell that? Marijuana reform is in the air. Health Canada is making big changes to the medical marijuana system in the spring of 2014. Hot on its tail is Sensible B.C., a group seeking big changes on a nearby frontier. Both movements have stirred things up locally.
Health Canada may think it has everything figured out, but municipal government is a little hazy on how things will unravel. How to amend bylaws? Figure out how to zone the new facilities? Hand out building permits? It’s a lot to look at under short notice.
Some municipalities are trying to blockade the changes, while others are finding ways to adapt. The Regional District of North Okanagan is eyeing agricultural and industrial lands for Health Canada’s new factory style facilities. The Agricultural Land Commission has deemed medical marijuana production a farm use, and the regional district has already viewed applications from interested producers. The new large-scale facilities will involve high security which, according to Health Canada, will prevent product from being diverted to the black market (the reason for all of this). Small, residential grow-ops, formerly accepted under the regime, will once again go outlaw. Those interested in continuing to grow legitimately must conform to the new model. Some in the industry say mom and pop growers will simply continue producing without Health Canada’s rubber stamp, while others feel the new system is unfair to patients.
Some North Okanagan communities have concerns about medical marijuana facilities setting up shop on agricultural land. The Township of Spallumcheen is looking at relegating them to industrial lands for safety reasons.
Lumby, where the number of licensed growers had been bourgeoning, may see an upswing in illegal production. Local RCMP are unsure whether the changes will address all the challenges the system faces, but as Lumby’s top cop says, “It can’t get much worse than it already is.”
One B.C. group says you might as well just decriminalize the plant altogether. Led by Vancouver’s Dana Larsen, the Sensible B.C. campaign tried to get enough votes in 2013 to proceed to a referendum on marijuana reform. They needed 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the province’s ridings, something 20 were able to accomplish. In Vernon/ Monashee, volunteers collected eight per cent. Organizers said a main obstacle was finding willing businesses at which to set up their booths. Only one shop welcomed them, while they were chased off other commercial areas. While the effort failed, campaigners promise to be back.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014