Medical pot plot thickens for RDEK

Business person wants support for Meadowbrook grow operation under new federal regulations

A business person from the Lower Mainland is planning to establish a medical marijuana operation in Meadowbrook.

On Friday, November 1, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors voted to begin amendments to the Kimberley Rural Zoning Bylaw to regulate medical marijuana.

Board Chair Rob Gay said that a business person approached the board to find out where the RDEK would stand on a medical marijuana operation within its boundaries.

The federal government has approved new regulations for medical marijuana operations, which will come into effect on April 1, 2014.

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.

Inside a municipality, the operations would need a business license. But the regional district does not require licenses for businesses outside municipalities.

Gay said the business person interested in setting up an operation in Meadowbrook does not have a lease on a property yet and is doing some business planning ahead of the new regulations.

“As far as we’ve heard, that’s the first person to come forward,” said Gay. “He’s from the Lower Mainland apparently and maybe wasn’t able to get what he needed there.”

But Gay said because the regulations are so new, the board is a little “green” about how to regulate grow operations.

“The motion was around us trying to catch our bylaws up to the rules and see if that would be a permitted use on the land,” he said.

Some members of the board felt the operation would be better suited in an industrial area, rather than on a rural farm.

“They probably better fit an industrial site or at least a commercial site rather than at a ranch in the middle of nowhere,” said Gay. “I think our desire would be to follow the advice of others and have this move into an industrial or commercial area where you have the appropriate power or security.”

Gay said that he personally would not want to see a medical marijuana operation just anywhere.

“I think medical marijuana, if they can do it properly, it’s not something we want in all of our areas, but it sounds like it’s going to be regulated and it’s just another agricultural crop.”

The board also asked staff to consult with the 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,” said Gay.

If medical marijuana is considered a farm operation, Gay said it would be permitted in Meadowbrook under the current zoning.