Courtenay council approved second reading of a zoning amendment that would allow medical marijuana production facilities (MMPF) on lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Health Canada regulations regarding such facilities changed in 2014. Federal licences geared to larger scale production/distribution facilities replaced the old system of personal use licences.
Recent legislative changes allow land owners to farm plants in the ALR if sanctioned to produce marijuana for medical purposes.
In Courtenay, ALR parcels range from five to 200 acres. Most are adjacent to residential neighbourhoods.
The City is recommending a 30-metre setback for MMPFs from all property lines.
“The legislation around it is evolving and I expect will continue to evolve at a federal level,” Ian Buck, director of development services, said at Monday’s meeting. “My recommendation at this stage would be to keep our bylaw consistent with the ALC’s (Agricultural Land Commission) request.”
Dispensaries, he notes, are a continuing issue.
“It remains illegal unless you are a production facility to sell marijuana.”
Coun. Rebecca Lennox asked if any ALR is located on the City’s water surface and connected to sewers.
“Are we looking at any maximum footprint?” said Lennox, concerned that open green spaces could become concrete blocks with fencing.
“As far as the size of a facility, it’s not something that we looked at regulating,” Buck said. “You first need to obtain a licence federally. Then you would need to follow their regulations, which they have a number around the amount that you can produce as well as security of facilities…I wouldn’t expect that we would have a request that would concrete an entire farm facility.”
There will be a public hearing about the bylaw March 7 at 5 p.m. in council chambers.
“I, for one, will be fascinated to see who comes to the meeting,” Coun. Doug Hillian said.