The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is moving toward setting zoning regulations for medical marijuana production under Ottawa’s new rules that take effect on April 1, 2014.
At its Oct. 17 planning and development committee meeting, the board passed a recommendation directing staff to prepare draft zoning and other bylaw amendments to establish medical pot production as a permitted use in the SCRD.
The report, due next month, will look at allowing federally licensed operations within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), “subject to regulations such as density, siting, security related to neighbourhoods, drainage and air quality.”
Staff will also report back on permitting production facilities within specific rural resource (RU2) and industrial zones, depending on minimum parcel size and the other issues identified for the ALR.
Reporting to the committee, planning technician Lesley-Ann Staats said Health Canada is requiring applicants for production licences to notify their local government, police force and fire department when they intend to apply and when the licence is granted, suspended, revoked or reinstated.
“Federally licensed marijuana producers will have to comply with all applicable provincial and municipal regulations, including building and zoning bylaws,” Staats said in her report. “However, it will be at the discretion of Health Canada not to approve a licence if the appropriate local zoning is not in place.”
Staats said the SCRD has received one notification of intent in West Howe Sound, for a property situated in a rural-residential zone adjacent to ALR lots.
Earlier this year, the Agricultural Land Commission ruled that legally sanctioned marijuana production in the ALR “is a farm use and cannot be prohibited, although local government can regulate the use,” Staats said.
Discussing their options, directors agreed that protecting neighbourhoods from unwanted large-scale commercial marijuana production facilities was a priority.
Committee chair Donna Shugar said there was some urgency to getting zoning regulations in place, as she was aware of “applications that are going to come forward in inappropriate locations.”
While Health Canada is requiring operations to have tight security, that “doesn’t protect the surrounding neighbourhood at all,” Shugar said. “So there are people in residential areas who are really worried about this.”
“There’s plenty of places where they can exist quite happily, but we have to plug holes,” Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis affirmed.
Directors also questioned whether the sites of existing facilities operated by patients and designates would be grandfathered if they do not fit new zoning rules. Staats said they would not, because after April 1, 2014, they will no longer be legal under the federal medical marijuana licensing system.
With both systems currently in effect, Ottawa has issued its first two commercial production and distribution licences, both to Saskatoon company Prairie Plant Systems Inc., Health Canada’s only supplier of pharmaceutical-grade marijuana for 13 years.