Next Wednesday evening at Centennial Hall, the RDEK will hold a public hearing on Bylaw 2511 – Medical Marijuana/Kimberley Rural.
The zoning will establish regulations and require a Light Industrial zoning for medical marijuana operations in the Kimberley rural area.
There is already one application for such an operation in Meadowbrook and RDEK Area E Director Jane Walter says she is hearing from concerned residents and she has some concerns herself.
“A gentleman from Langley has already made an application of intent and he has been in further contact with the RDEK,” Walter said. “The property he intends to develop for a medical marijuana grow op is in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve).”
That makes a big difference in the type of control the RDEK will have over the application going forward, Walter says.
“The Agricultural Land Commission has designated medical marijuana production as agriculture, so the only thing we can do is zoning.”
But while the new bylaw will require a light industrial zoning for medical marijuana grow ops, properties in the ALR may not require that zoning.
The federal government’s new guidelines around the production of medical marijuana go into effect on April 1 and the RDEK is racing to get this bylaw in place before that.
After April, medical marijuana producers will need to seek local government zoning for the operation.
It will be up to the local government to zone properties so that they can control where the medical marijuana operations are located.
Previously, producers could set up operations wherever they wished, with a license from Health Canada and without the knowledge of local government.
The new regulations will also contain stringent guidelines, including 24-hour monitoring of the site.
But Walter says that these regulations don’t take into account the ALR.
“I don’t think the feds did a lot of thinking around BC.’s situation with the ALR,” she said. “We are the only province with an ALC and marijuana is considered a crop.”
She does expect there will be people with objections and concerns around the proposed grow operation at the public hearing, but the RDEK will not have a lot of power to act on those concerns because of the ALR situation.
“People can state their case and we will take it back to the government and tell them this is what people said. But these lands are in the ALR. Lands not in the ALR must have light industrial zoning. The rest of the rules are under the feds. They demand high security fencing and 24-hour video surveillance.”
Despite those demands, Walter has concerns around odour and traffic. She says as she understands it, a person with a medical marijuana prescription must phone the grower and then a courier picks up the product to deliver it to the patient.
“I don’t think it should be in a residential area and Meadowbrook is quite residential.”
RDEK staff has been consulting B.C. Ministry of Environment to find out if medical marijuana is protected under the Farm Practices Protection Act.
Also known as the Right To Farm Act, the legislation protects a farmer’s right to farm without unwarranted nuisance complaints about things such as odour, noise, dust or other disturbances.
“It may not be our place to say yes or no to medical marijuana if it’s a farm endeavour,” Board Chair Rob Gay told the Townsman/Bulletin last fall when the application first came forward.
With a file from Sally Macdonald