KAMLOOPS – After deciding to postpone public hearings until federal legislation relating to legal grow operations was finalized, city council will now be consulting the public about the necessary zoning bylaws for medical marijuana, following the announcement of the new legislation last month.
Council first agreed back in November to host a public hearing but a short time later Health Canada announced it was revising the program, leading council to postpone the public hearings until the new legislation was released.
Coun. Ken Christian was the first to speak to the issue this week, noting council needs to look at a very narrow aspect in the debate as the city is only responsible for land issues, not legalizing. He also said he is pleased with the direction Health Canada has taken.
“In my opinion Health Canada really dropped the ball. To their credit they're trying to correct that now,” he said, adding the only question council needs to worry about is, “would we allow in industrial zones, the cultivation of medical marijuana?”
The public will get to voice opinions over zoning of the legislation, the only part the city has a say in. The city is looking at limiting the operations to standalone buildings in general and heavy industrial areas, and would require detailed plans for all discharges and ventilation.
While several councillors tried to open up the zoning to agricultural land, they could not get an amendment to include that in the bylaw heading to a public hearing.
Coun. Nancy Bepple said she disagreed with previous comments that a grow operation is not making use of agricultural land in an appropriate way.
“I went through and changed medical marijuana grow-op to pig farm and the things they are saying are the things we would be looking for in a pig farm,” Bepple said. “They're all agricultural, they're all allowable use and they're all indoors.”
While some councillors agreed, the majority felt the option to have a grow-op on agricultural land should be left up to the variance process where there would be more control.
“I would much rather see it in industrial space,” Coun. Marg Spina said. “We need to have more control over the circumstance and as a city, all we have control over is land use... this is a way we can set the stage for responsible growth.”
A public hearing is expected to be scheduled after Labour Day.
Also read: A series on the new medical marijuana regulations by Charlotte Helston and Kamloops council concerned over lack of clarity around risks when it comes to proposed legislation.
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