City stays quiet on medical grow ops

Eight more planned for Maple Ridge, as legal issues fester

Merle Chambers

Merle Chambers

While Whonnock residents worry about a new medical marijuana plant almost complete on 272nd Street, another eight such operations could be coming to a Maple Ridge.

Those locations haven’t been revealed by the city, but the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations doesn’t prevent the city from disclosing those locations, says both a lawyer, as well as an owner in the medical-marijuana business.

“There’s nothing in the MMPR that says the city can’t disclose it,” says Chad Clelland who runs a medicinal marijuana web portal and operates the Greenleaf Medical Clinic in Abbotsford.

Some cities are championing the operations as a means of economic development, Clelland noted.

The MMPR is the governing set of regulations for the industry.

Whonnock residents wanted to know why they weren’t told earlier of Tantalus Lab’s intent of building there. The previous council allowed the operation to locate there after being one of the first cities to direct all medical marijuana operations to Agricultural Land Reserve locations.

While fire, police and the city have to be informed of the possible locations, through what is called notices of intent, those are not being released to the public.

The city is still waiting to hear from its lawyers on what information it can disclose on further proposals.

“There’s a strong sentiment that if we were to disclose the addresses and that somehow resulted in the community protesting … that the city could be held liable for that company not getting its licence,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.

But council has not made a final decision on whether it will or not disclose locations, she pointed out.

The city has asked Health Canada if it can release the locations of the other proposed sites.

“And we don’t have an answer on that.”

Read also wrote to Health Minister Rona Ambrose last month asking for a process to allow the public to participate in location of marijuana facilities.

Read said even with the new regulations on medical marijuana facilities in the ALR, the city does not have enough power to require marijuana facilities to move to one particular area or to only operate where municipal water is provided.

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy understands the predicament the city is in.

“It may be fair to withhold locations unless it becomes obvious,” where those proposed facilities are.

It’s possible a city could be sued if a location is released resulting in a lost business opportunity, he added.

But here has to be a balance, between informing the public and privacy.

“But when it comes to marijuana, the reaction is often so emotional, so it does cause problems.”

Conroy also said that Health Canada regulations don’t prohibit cities from disclosing locations.

The MMPR requires that applicants notify fire, police and municipal officials of their plans, Conroy said.

“I would think, therefore, the whole point is to put the city, representing the people, on notice,” of a company’s plans.

That way, if people have concerns, they can raise them at public meetings.

“You need to have a balance in terms of making sure you keep everyone happy.”

On the other hand, if no rezoning is required for a marijuana facility to be built, a public meeting may not be required.

Part of the problem is that people don’t understand what’s involved in a modern, medicinal marijuana grow facility, he added.