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Licensed grows draw chamber ire

The district needs to enforce its bylaws to keep licensed marijuana growers out of industrial zones, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

Agriculture is not a permitted use in the industrial zones, but people with Health Canada (HC) licences are using theses properties and … “seriously impacting businesses in industrial areas,” said chamber manager Michelle Favero during a presentation to council Aug. 20.

The applications are private, and police have to ask HC if a grower is permitted. She said growers are not regulated, don’t require a business permit from the district, and are putting other business license holders at risk.

Favero said the concerns are safety related, including mould, a lack of ventilation, and grow rips.

Nutek Sign Creations owner David Sawatzky said before his business license was approved, building and fire inspectors checked to make sure his work was being done in a safe environment.

“We have laws in place to keep people safe, but there’s a segment that doesn’t have to [play by the same rules] even though they’re running a business that’s a lot more potentially hazardous,” said Sawatzky, who sits on the chamber’s government affairs committee. “They’re legitimate in the eyes of Health Canada.”

Even though growers have a Health Canada licence, safety inspectors can still visit the property because fire and building codes must be met, said Fire Chief Ian Fitzpatrick. All buildings are subject to inspections and the frequency depends on the type of business.

“We don’t see a whole lot of [marijuana grow operations in industrial zones], but we see a fair share in different areas of industrial sections in town,” he said.

Fitzpatrick noted inspectors can enter buildings to make sure they’re safe with or without the owners’ permission. If there are issues, officials can write work orders for improvement. If the owners don’t comply, daily fines can be levied.

“If they bring their building up to code, we have no issues with it,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s as far as we can go.”

If the fire department receives information there is criminal activity taking place, the case will be referred to the RCMP.

According to Favero, two per cent of production licences issued by Health Canada are in Mission, yet the district accounts for 0.1 per cent of Canada’s population. There are more than 380 licensed marijuana grow operations here, she said.

Health Canada is working on changes to its Marijuana Medical Access Program to address concerns from a number of groups, including police, fire officials and local governments, but the new regulations are not expected to take affect until 2015.

Meanwhile, the chamber would like to work with the district to eliminate businesses without business permits from operating in Mission’s industrial zones.

District staff is developing a strategy, with a report expected in September.

“You will find council supports the efforts of the chamber,” said Mayor Ted Adlem.

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