Public to have say on pot growing

Kamloopians will get a chance to hash out their feelings about medical marijuana.

Kamloops council has agreed to hold a public hearing, at a yet-to-be-determined date, on a bylaw change that would restrict where legal weed growers can set up shop in the city.

If the new rules are adopted, medical-marijuana grow-ops will only be allowed in industrial zones and will be subject to a number of restrictions and conditions.

While the changes drew praise from marijuana activist Carl Anderson when he spoke to KTW last week, they have another local grower concerned.

The man, who did not give his name for fear his grow-op would become a target, said many of the growers he knows are of a low-income background, disabled, or both, arguing the city’s new regulations will be prohibitively expensive.

“I can’t afford to up and move and put my medicinal grow-op in an industrial area,” he said.

“I just can’t do it. I’m eating at the food bank to begin with.”

The man said he wouldn’t have a problem with the city mandating inspections of growers’ residences to make sure they meet building and fire codes, but said the proposed restrictions go too far.

“The average person is going to go back underground,” he said. “And, they’re never going to know.”

However, the city isn’t the only organization looking at getting pot-growing out of homes.

Kamloops’ debate comes as Health Canada is considering major changes to its Medical Marihuana Access Program.

Under the current system, the federal government hands out production licences to individuals, allowing them to grow pot for themselves or up to two people in the program.

But, Health Canada spokesperson Stephane Shank said the federal goverment may move to a system where medical marijuana is grown at large-scale operations then shipped to those who need it, eliminating home growing altogether.

“Essentially, the goal here is to help prevent any sort of illicit use around the medical marijuana,” Shank said, “and, this, of course, would also help keep communities safe.”

Regulations are in the drafting stages and the production switch isn’t confirmed — it requires legislative change to come into effect — but Shank said if Health Canada does go in that direction, producers would have to follow community guidelines on where a business can operate.

Shank said there is no set timeline for getting the draft regulations out for consideration, but Canadian’s should get a look at a more concrete proposal soon.

Kamloops council has also agreed to work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has been lobbying hard for changes to the federal medical-marijuana program.

Mayor Peter Milobar said getting pot production out of the hands of individual users makes sense from a community-safety perspective.

“You don’t grow your own T-3s in your basement, either,” he said.

However, councillors Arjun Singh and Donovan Cavers voted against the lobbying effort, saying they didn’t feel comfortable supporting the move to large-scale production without more information.

While Cavers also expressed concern medical-marijuana growers hadn’t been consulted before the city’s bylaw came forward, Coun. Marg Spina said a public hearing gives them and others in the community that opportunity.

Councillors also wrestled with whether the bylaw should allow pot-growing in agricultural areas as well as industrial zones. Both options were on the table but, in a report to council, staff said agricultural lands are often in residential areas, which defeats the purpose of the bylaw.

Coun. Tina Lange countered that allowing people to grow marijuana on farmland seems like a natural fit.

“It seems to me that greenhouses and agricultural land is probably a good place to be growing such things,” she said. “If we are looking to be a sustainable community, why would we not encourage the use of sunlight as opposed to artificial light?”

A motion to include agricultural lands in the zoning amendment failed, but Singh said if the public wants to see them included, council can reconsider it at the hearing.

“I hope farmers show up and I hope people with personal licences show up,” Singh said, adding he’s looking forward to what is already expected to be a lively hearing.

“It’s going to be like fireworks. It’ll be interesting.”



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