Interlakes Economic Association (IEA) members are hoping for a change of heart on medicinal marijuana facility zoning.
IEA president Dianne Lawson and other representative members attended a recent Cariboo Regional District (CRD) public hearing, where they spoke out in favour of allowing these operations in agricultural zones.
At its May 16 regular board meeting, CRD directors gave third reading and adoption to allow medicinal marijuana production facilities – but only within its Heavy Industrial Zones.
Lawson says her group wants to see further amendments to the South Cariboo Zoning Bylaw to allow for production within the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR), with increased setbacks to appease any neighbours.
“This is an economic opportunity. It is a clean industry, when we look at the restrictions Health Canada has placed on the building, the construction, [air quality control], and regulation and management of these types of facilities.”
She notes several other regional districts and municipalities in the province are looking at creating Special Exemption Zones for any medical marijuana grow operations within Agriculture Land Reserve, with increased setbacks of 50-90 metres.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has already amended its bylaws [pending final approval by the province) to allow these facilities within its agriculture zones with increased setbacks, Lawson explains.
“I think we should consider the same.”
However, she notes the CRD’s new bylaw changes also amended the term “agricultural use” to exclude legal marijuana production.
“The Agriculture Land Commission has defined medical marijuana as a farm use. And, through Health Canada, I think there is certainly enough regulation in place to protect neighbours.”
Noting initially the IEA spoke out against confining to Heavy Industrial Zones, Lawson says at least this now offers an available option.
“I’m very glad the CRD is finally looking at this. Because right now, if we have any investors looking at our community to do this, at least there is one zoning.”
She adds CRD directors have also directed staff to look at other potential zoning, so Lawson hopes this results in a quick catch-up with other communities.
However, investors from the Lower Mainland are already looking elsewhere in the province, and may snap up easier opportunities where zoning is in place and local governments are ready to accept land applications, she explains.
“Regrettably, they are looking at the TNRD right now. And why? Because we are not ready.”