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1000 legal pot growers to be shut down

At the present time there are more than 1,000 licenced medical marijuana grow operations within the city of Kelowna.

In a letter sent to the city last year, Health Canada informed the City there are currently 841 people licenced to grow medical marijuana for personal use and another 181 active licences allowing people to grow for themselves and up to four other people.

New Health Canada rules will force them to shut down by the end of March.

To prepare for the inevitable growth of new operations, Kelowna City Council put forth a series of new zoning and bylaw regulations concerning the growing and distribution of medical marijuana.

According to Health Canada the new regulations, set to take affect April 1, will treat marijuana as much as possible like any other narcotic used for medical purposes by creating conditions for a new, commercial industry that is responsible for its production and distribution.

Those conditions, regulating health and safety and also where facilities could or could not be located, are being left to individual municipalities across the country.

At the present time medical marijuana operations can be located anywhere within a city as long as the operator has a licence for production from Health Canada.

Monday, Kelowna City Council approval a text amendment to zoning bylaw 8000 permitting medical marijuana production facilities only in I2 (General Industrial), I3 (Heavy Industrial) and I4 (Central Industrial) zones.

Other industrial zones such as I1, I5 and I6 were not included, although Councillor Andre Blanleil did question the exclusion of I1 (Business Industrial).

Environment & Land Use Manager, Todd Cashin, says staff was looking for industrial zones that provided the least amount of conflict with typical users within those zones.

"When staff was looking through the different uses I1 definitely came up...it was on the bubble," says Cashin.

"If you review the existing I1 zones that are out there today there are a lot of regular type businesses - a lot less on the true industrial use side. Some are closer to residential areas and the I1's, in some cases, had a bit more opportunities for conflict so staff left it off."

Some of the primary land uses in the I1 zone include animal clinics, care facilities, child care while I2 has automotive, warehousing and production facilities, things that look and feel like what the city feels the marijuana production facilities will look like.

A second text amendment was also approved to prohibit medical marijuana production facilities from all Agriculture 1 (A1) zones by amending the definition of agriculture.

Councillor Robert Hobson supported the direction council has taken in eliminating the possibility of of these facilities within the agricultural zone.

"This is an industrial use and not an agricultural use that requires the kinds of servicing and road access that an industrial property would require," says Hobson.

"It's (marijuana) not an outdoor crop like corn. To me it makes sense to focus on industrial areas."

Greg Wise, Kelowna's bylaws manager, says the Medical Marijuana Producer Business Licence and Regulation Bylaw mirrors those of Health Canada.

Those include:

  • The applicant is obligated to ensure the location of the medical marijuana production facility meets all applicable stipulations of the City of Kelowna Zoning Bylaw 8000
  • The applicant is obligated to obtain the required permits prior to commencement of any building, plumbing, natural gas, propane and electrical installations on any development site or building
  • All new construction and tenant improvements must comply with the BC Building code, BC Fire Code and City of Kelowna Building Bylaw, Plumbing, Gas, Development Cost Charges, and Life Safety Bylaws

Submission of:

  • A ventilation plan used to control the environment detailing how such system(s) prevents the escape of pollen, and other particles through exhausted air ensuring no odours leaving the premises can be detected by a person with a normal sense of smell at the exterior of the premises
  • A plan that specifies the methods to be used to prevent the growth of harmful mould and achieve compliance with limitations on discharge into the waste water system of the City
  • A security and exterior lighting plan consistent with the requirements of the Health Canada MMPR regulations, including monitored alarm system
  • A plan of the placement and use of security cameras consistent with the Health Canada MMPR regulations
  • A storage plan for the medical marijuana produced and/or otherwise stored on the Premises
  • A plan for disposal of any medical marijuana or Infused marijuana that is not consumed by patients in a manner that protects any portion thereof being possessed or ingested by any person or animal
  • A plan for packaging and delivery of medical marijuana to patients, including the loading and transport of product
  • Provide a signed declaration that no pesticides or other toxic substance shall be used in medical marijuana production and that the operation will meet the Health Canada Technical Specifications for Dried Marihuana for Medical Purposes document
  • A Copy of the Heath Canada Medical Marijuana Producer licence
  • The names of every individual employed in the MMPR business and provide updates within 72 hrs. of any change in personnel
  • Documentation that the applicant and all employees have passed an RCMP criminal records check on an annual basis
  • The premises must be cleaned to the standard contained in the Nuisance Controlled Substance Bylaw 9510, as amended or replaced from time to time
  • City may inspect at any time to confirm any and all conditions are being met
  • Failure to meet any of the conditions will be grounds for a business licence suspension hearing [staff decision] or business licence revocation hearing [council decision]

Councillor Colin Basran did have some concerns with the provision allowing the city to inspect a facility at any time wondering if the RCMP would be accompanying staff members.

"Like with any business in our community there are those that are owned by very reputable people with good intentions and those that aren't," says Basran.

"I have some real concerns with our employees who are unarmed going into facilities that could potentially be run by people with not necessarily the best of intentions."

While businesses wanting to operate a production facility are required to undergo stringent background checks for themselves and all employees, City Clerk Stephen Fleming says if a bylaw officer feels there is an issue with their safety or public safety an RCMP member would come along.

Meantime, council had concerns over the cooperation or lack of from Health Canada in regards to how current facilities that will no longer be operational after March 31 are shut down.

While the RCMP and bylaws are working together to formulate an enforcement plan to ensure these operations are shut down as required by March 31, Health Canada is not providing the locations.

"This is something the RCMP is looking at nationally," says Fleming.

"There is an enforcement plan being worked upon to make sure those properties are subject to our grow-op bylaw where they have to be cleaned to a certain standard once the grow finishes. He have a high number of facilities subject to the bylaw with the challenge that Health Canada won't give us the specific addresses."

This did not sit well with council.

"I really find it discerning about Health Canada and I don't know if they really thought this through," says Maxine DeHart.

"It's really appalling to me and it's worth a discussion."

At the present time, Health Canada has approved eight licences across Canada including two in BC, one on Vancouver Island and the other in Maple Ridge in the Fraser Valley.

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