Public hearing set for local marijuana production

Changes to federal regulations have opened the doors to commercial medical marijuana production

Changes to federal regulations have opened the doors to commercial medical marijuana production. In addressing the changes last week, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) authorized a public hearing for policy direction to take place in Windermere.

Until last spring, Canadians with an authorization to possess marijuana (granted through a medical prescription) were able to grow their own product or purchase it through Health Canada. On April 1st, 2014, changes to the Marihuana for Medical Purposes [Editor’s note: “marihuana” is the legal spelling while “marijuana” is Canadian Press style] regulation came into effect and Health Canada began centralizing production.

Instead of medicating with homegrown or state-grown bud, medical marijuana users will now have to obtain it through a commercial producer. As residential properties are no longer able to grow the plants, many communities are deciding how to allow for growth elsewhere.

“Part of bringing regulations into place, applicants who want to commercially produce have to consult local governments,” said Karen MacLeod, acting planning and development services manager at RDEK. “Local government decides where in the community they would like these operations to take place.”

Before the industry is establishes itself, each community in Canada will have the option to amend their official community plan to allow or disallow the production of medical marijuana in respective areas.

“It is a decision by local government whether to regulate or not.”

Ms. MacLeod said that a fair amount of interest has been expressed in the regional district, and that tight regulations have made production only viable to businesses with deep pockets.

“Based on the requirements that Health Canada’s looking for, and sheer scale of production, the ones that will be licensed are looking at multi-million dollar investments, with major (financial) backers,” she said. “It’s not likely or feasible for small-scale producers to take this on as an enterprise.”

The public hearing to consider amending the medical marijuana bylaw will be held at the Windermere Community Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 29th. Through four separate bylaws, the hearing will deal with zoning in the areas of Jubilee Mountain, Lake Windermere, Upper Columbia Valley, and Fairmont Hot Springs.

While producers must abide by how each municipality decides how to deal with changes in its boundaries, medical marijuana can be legally grown anywhere throughout the Agricultural Land Reserve, so long as it’s permitted by the farmer or rancher.