Medical marijuana growers now know some of the hoops they'll have to jump through if they want to set up shop in Chilliwack next year. And it won't be easy.
The nearly 600 holders of medical marijuana grow licences in the City of Chilliwack will no longer be able to grow pot in their homes, businesses or agricultural properties after new federal regulations take effect April 1, 2014.
As part of the transition to the new rules, municipalities have to decide which zones allow for medical marijuana grow operations (MMGO).
City council gave second and third reading Tuesday to amendments to a zoning bylaw to regulate MMGOs. That included disallowing MMGOs from any zone but "special industrial."
"We are taking a proactive approach to ensure these new businesses are properly located within Chilliwack," Mayor Sharon Gaetz said in a press release. "By assigning them to the M6 industrial zone we will be able to accurately situate local MMGOs in a positive manner while protecting valuable farmland and minimizing the potential for complaints." The increase in the number of MMGOs in Chilliwack since the program was introduced in 2001 exceeds national or provincial averages. In February, there were 513 personal use production licences and 77 designated person production licences in Chilliwack, which was more than three times the average across British Columbia. That was more than triple the number of legal marijuana growers from a year prior.
At the public hearing Tuesday, a number of people spoke in favour of the changes proposed.
One of those people was Kathy Robertson, who said the medical marijuana grow operation next to her business has caused years of nuisance and stress.
"The smell we find highly offensive," she said, adding that she has to explain to customers about the odours.
Another woman told council she opposed marijuana growing in agricultural areas because the secrecy means pesticide use and effluent discharge cannot be monitored properly.
One commercial property owner asked council about whether his M3-zoned property could be rezoned to allow for an MMGO.
Another individual who said he was a quality assurance manager for a group seeking growing licences had a number of questions about the city's approach to regulating MMGOs.
The process for proponents won't be easy and it will be very public as those looking to start an MMGO will need to find a site designated special industrial in the Official Community Plan. Then they will have to rezone that property, a public process that will involve community feedback.
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