With the birth of new federal guidelines for the commercial growing of medicinal marijuana, pot production is becoming big business, and many entrepreneurs are looking at Sechelt to set up shop.
The town of around 10,000 people is one of the first municipalities in B.C. to allow the activity in light industrial zones.
Sechelt is also in the process of considering a new zoning bylaw that would specifically list medical marijuana production as a permitted use in the RR-2 agriculture zone for properties larger than two hectares, in the RR-3 resource zone and in all light and heavy industrial zones, according to development planner Angela Letman.
There are at least three med-pot producers currently eyeing various Sechelt properties to set up shop.
It’s difficult to get an exact number as the grow-ops are licensed under the federal government and if the operation is destined for an area where it’s a permitted use, the proposal won’t come before council, unless an amendment is needed.
The public first heard about Medma Cannabis Pharms Inc. when the company’s proposal for a two-storey, 433-square metre medicinal marijuana facility in Sechelt industrial park went before council for variance and septage amendments in July.
Those amendments were granted and the business is now waiting for a building permit to proceed, as well as a licence to produce from the federal government. Health Canada is currently processing paperwork for would-be producers like Medma, but no specific timelines have been given and no licences for Sechelt have been approved yet.
Seashore Organic Marijuana Corp. has set up a website and named former CAO of the Sechelt Indian Band, Barbara Joe, as its controller.
Seashore has secured an office at Suite 101 - 5682 Wharf St. and note on their website that they have also “secured a location in Sechelt.” That location has not been made public.
Cannabis Ventures Inc. (CVI) wants to operate at 6720 Acorn Road — a property owned by Bounty Development Corp., which names Sechelt Coun. Chris Moore as its president. Moore is also a named director with CVI.
He and fellow Coun. Tom Lamb both have business ties to the medical marijuana industry.
Lamb owns a building off Field Road that is currently occupied by a medicinal marijuana grow-op attempting to become certified under the new federal rules.
Both Moore and Lamb see the business of medicinal marijuana as a welcome addition to Sechelt that could even out the tax base, which draws heavily on residents at the moment, and could offer good paying jobs for locals.
While Lamb is not involved in the grow-op in his building, he said he has never had any complaints about it and it’s been there for “three or four years.”
“When people go up there they have a hard time even finding where it is,” Lamb noted.
Moore said he was approached by CVI earlier this year about his property on Acorn Road.
“It’s a penny stock company out of California. The guys that brought it forward are well-experienced in bio-med stocks. They had good credentials and I had been looking at doing something with that four acres, which is zoned RR-1,” Moore said, noting the zoning may need to change before CVI can build on site.
“So I said, ‘yeah, I think there is a possibility we could build something here,’ not that it was a slam dunk, ‘and I’m prepared if you get your application to build something.’ They showed me some amazing conceptual drawings that were for a building that would work well in Geneva, Switzerland … odourless, green, beautiful buildings and I said ‘we’re open for business if you can get your licence.’”
He became a director of the company recently, when members of CVI were looking for “someone local” to sit on the company’s board.
Moore said he has always been an advocate for the legalization of marijuana and that he’d be happy to see Sechelt become a mecca for medicinal pot production in the future.
“It’s a legal business and maybe like Chris said there is the potential for Sechelt to become known as the marijuana capital of the world. And if it’s producing a drug that works good for people and makes people healthier, then that’s fine by me, as long as it’s properly regulated,” Lamb said.
While both councillors are in favour of new medicinal marijuana operations setting up in Sechelt, they will need to be careful how they vote on the matter in the future.
“I’m beginning to realize there will be certain sensitivities publicly in terms of my optics, in terms of how I vote on stuff or don’t vote or don’t show up,” Moore said.
“I do talk to our CIG [chief of innovation and growth] and I will be in conversation with our lawyers. If there’s a perceived notion of conflict then I will excuse myself, absolutely I will.”
Lamb agreed he would also exclude himself from any future vote on the matter if questions of conflict of interest are raised.
The new Marihuana for Medicinal Purposes Regulations (MMPR) were announced in June of 2013 to replace the old Marijuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR).
So far only 13 producers across Canada have been identified by Health Canada as being granted licences and those producers are listed on their website.
There are currently 190 applications for licences in B.C.; however, media relations people would not say how many applications have been sent in for Sechelt specifically.
Learn more about the new MMPR at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/marihuana/index-eng.php.