Medical Marijuana Plan Hits Snag

Apr 4, 2013

A North Shore cou­ple hop­ing to receive one of the first licenses to pro­duce med­ical mar­i­juana under new fed­eral reg­u­la­tions has run into a bureau­cratic road­block. The Regional Dis­trict of Cen­tral Koote­nay last week denied a vari­ance appli­ca­tion to let the cou­ple expand two out­build­ings on their prop­erty to a com­bined 4,435 square feet ( 412 square meters ) – more than four times the max­i­mum size allowed for a home-based busi­ness in a res­i­den­tial area – and increase the num­ber of per­mit­ted employ­ees from two to four. One of the appli­cants, who spoke to the Star on con­di­tion of anonymity, explained that by apply­ing for a vari­ance rather than going through a rezon­ing process, they hoped to avoid a pub­lic hear­ing that would have made their loca­tion com­mon knowl­edge. “I didn’t want it put on the map where a large med­ical grow facil­ity was,” he said. They aren’t hid­ing the nature of their pro­posed busi­ness from the regional dis­trict or neigh­bours, he added, but do have secu­rity con­cerns if their address is widely adver­tised. How­ever, when the mat­ter reached the regional district’s rural affairs com­mit­tee this month, direc­tors upheld a staff rec­om­men­da­tion to reject the vari­ance and sug­gested the appli­cants seek rezon­ing instead. Com­mit­tee chair Hans Cun­ning­ham said the deci­sion was based both on the size of the pro­posed vari­ance and their belief reg­u­la­tions to be intro­duced this year will insist that com­mer­cial med­ical mar­i­juana oper­a­tions be located in indus­trial or agri­cul­tural areas. “I applaud [the appli­cants] in that they want to get a jump on what’s going on,” he said.  “But if we give them a vari­ance and the gov­ern­ment said ‘No, you have to be on agri­cul­tural or indus­trial land,’ they’re not going to get a license.  So it makes sense to do the rezon­ing.” The deci­sion fol­lowed a pre­sen­ta­tion by the pro­po­nents, who came with sev­eral let­ters of sup­port from neigh­bours and a peti­tion of 30 names.  ( A staff report also listed objec­tions from other neigh­bours, but they mostly related to the operation’s size, not its pur­pose.  ) “They made a hell of a pre­sen­ta­tion,” said direc­tor Larry Binks.  “Let­ter per­fect.  It was well writ­ten and well doc­u­mented.” He was one of three direc­tors who spoke against deny­ing the vari­ance, believ­ing the sub­ject of mar­i­juana clouded the dis­cus­sion. The pro­po­nents had no oblig­a­tion to dis­close what sort of busi­ness they were plan­ning, he noted.  Still, he too believes rezon­ing is the right path – but wishes the appli­cants had been warned at the out­set the vari­ance had lit­tle chance of suc­ceed­ing. ‘EPICENTRE OF MARIJUANA’ The appli­cant who spoke to the Star said they’re con­sid­er­ing their options and haven’t decided whether to apply for rezon­ing.  “I don’t feel I’ve been treated badly by the regional dis­trict,” he said.  “It turned out my vari­ance was too big.  I was ask­ing for a lot.” Even so, they would still be among the small­est license-seekers, he said. He also said this area is already home to a high den­sity of mar­i­juana grow-ops as part of an illicit “black and grey mar­ket­place” and called the fed­eral government’s new rules the first “white reg­u­la­tions,” which he hopes are the first step in legal­iz­ing mar­i­juana for recre­ational use. “This new well-regulated indus­try will sim­ply absorb the black mar­ket in time as it takes the profit out of grow­ing and sell­ing mar­i­juana in the black mar­ket,” he said. “We believe Nel­son is the epi­cen­ter of mar­i­juana and that rep­u­ta­tion can be exploited for the ben­e­fit of our entire com­mu­nity.  Our lead­ers should wake up to this fact and see that there is an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­nity for our com­mu­nity in par­tic­u­lar to reap huge ben­e­fits.” He urged local politi­cians to wel­come and encour­age med­ical mar­i­juana entre­pre­neurs with “open door poli­cies, rules, zon­ing, and invest­ment,” and avoid mak­ing deci­sions “out of igno­rance, fear, and the pro­pa­ganda they have been fed for years.” WIDER DISCUSSION The North Shore appli­ca­tion, the first to reach the regional dis­trict, comes as local gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers its role in polic­ing med­ical mar­i­juana oper­a­tions. The new fed­eral reg­u­la­tions – orig­i­nally expected to be unveiled next month but appar­ently now delayed until Octo­ber – are intended to license com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of med­ical pot while elim­i­nat­ing per­sonal grow ops. But a recent memo from RDCK plan­ning staff asks how Health Canada’s pro­ce­dures will mesh with the regional district’s per­mit­ting process and whether build­ing and bylaw offi­cers will inspect com­mer­cial oper­a­tions.  It also won­ders about the poten­tial effect on neigh­bours and whether loca­tions will be made pub­lic. Staff con­sulted other juris­dic­tions and con­cluded the most prac­ti­cal solu­tion is to focus on agri­cul­tural zones where licensed pro­duc­ers can oper­ate in stand-alone build­ings well away from homes.  They sug­gest exist­ing oper­a­tors not zoned agri­cul­tural could stay put but would be required to apply for rezon­ing. The board referred the memo to its April meet­ing, when Koote­nay Colum­bia MP David Wilks, who is help­ing draft the new leg­is­la­tion, will be present. But the North Shore pro­po­nent said he’s dis­ap­pointed the RDCK is “play­ing fol­low the leader” when he believes it should be set­ting the prece­dents.  “Our munic­i­pal­i­ties should be look­ing for ways to keep our cot­tage indus­try, by work­ing with the new reg­u­la­tions for max­i­mum Koote­nay ben­e­fit,” he said. Source: Nel­son Star (CN BC) Sec­tion: Front page Copy­right: 2013 Black Press Web­site: http://​www​.bclo​cal​news​.com/​k​o​o​t​e​n​a​y​_​r​o​c​k​i​e​s​/​n​e​l​s​o​n​s​t​ar/ Details: http://​www​.map​inc​.org/​m​e​d​i​a​/​4​866 Author: Greg Nesteroff

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Med­ical Mar­i­juana Plan Hits Snag

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