Medical pot production zone in the works
Staff have followed through with council’s order to find a place for medical marijuana production in the farm fields of Maple Ridge.
A new bylaw proposes to allow commercial production of marijuana in agricultural zones only – providing there are ample buffers between the growing facilities and neighbours. A similar bylaw has been in place in neighbouring Pitt Meadows since 2010.
Buildings used for pot production must be 60 metres from the front and side lot lines and 30 metres from the rear property lines and any creeks, according to the proposed zone amending bylaw.
They must also be at least 200 metres from any school, planner Diana Hall told council Monday.
The latter restriction would automatically exclude many properties near the urban boundary from pot production.
With such a buffer, properties near Laity View and Yennadon elementary, and Westview and Meadowridge secondary schools would be precluded from setting up pot operations.
Maple Ridge is creating the bylaw to prepare for changes to federal legislation to take place next year. That will see small-scale growers with personal-use medical marijuana licences and designated person licences phased out and replaced by larger-scale commercial grow operations.
That could turn into a job generator, says a report written by Maple Ridge’s legal firm, Young Anderson.
The report from the district’s lawyer says personal use licences expire April 14, 2014.
“Municipalities should expect that business enterprises will be aggressive in establishing these uses, given the significant demand for the product, the scarcity of legal supply that can be expected when existing personal-use licences are phased out and the financial advantages that will accrue to early entrants into the industry.”
Hall told council there could be a period of overlap when the new federal laws and existing rules are still in place.
Coun. Al Hogarth asked if council should also require a minimum distance of 800 metres between marijuana-producing operations.
Hall said federal rules have stringent regulations on ventilation and all operations must be indoors.
Coun. Cheryl Ashlie asked if grow ops in industrial areas will be brought into compliance once the new law is in place, and if it will be possible to remove them from such places.
Former Maple Ridge councillor Craig Speirs, who’s supporting the The Always Growing Green Society, which dispenses medicinal pot on 224th Street, said the District of Maple Ridge is trying to push commercial pot operations away from industrial areas, where they’d be easiest to service.
His major concern is the escalation of prices that sick people could face. Licensed growers now can produce small amounts of medical marijuana for free, for either themselves or a small number of patients.
“The cost to these folks to buy commercial grade will go from nothing up to $500 a month.”
Instead, he’s suggesting grandfathering the medical grow licences, so as people expire, so will the licences.
Speirs also said that commercial pot production for medicinal purposes could be a major job generator.
“The industry creates well-paying, sustainable jobs on a small footprint, pays taxes, employs locals and consumes goods and services from surrounding businesses. This is exactly the type of business activity council has been dreaming of and talking about for as long as I can remember,” he said.
Under the current system, one aggravation for police is that medical marijuana producers don’t have to account for the actual yield of their crop, which could far exceed what their licence specifies, and receive no penalty for doing so. That’s resulted in organized crime approaching medical grow operators for any of the surpluses.
As of a year ago, 3,600 people in B.C. were authorized to have medical marijuana, while about 1,200 were licensed to grow medical marijuana, many of whom do so in their homes.