Maple Ridge moving on medical marijuana zones

Staff will work on policy outlining how pot can be grown in farming areas in Maple Ridge

Council has told staff to find a way to put medical-marijuana grow operations into agricultural areas of Maple Ridge.

“They’re going to draft a bylaw where it can only be grown in an agricultural zone and get it out of the houses,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

“You can write a bylaw, and then the $64,000 question is – what happens if it’s challenged. Will it stand up?”

Politicians made the decision at their Tuesday meeting after a report on the topic. According to the report, Health Canada is developing new standards for medical marijuana operations in two years. Those standards will toughen requirements for product quality, safety, record keeping, and could result in the phasing out of smaller, individual growers.

Medical marijuana growers could face the same restrictions as mushroom barns or pig styes, which means the buildings would have to be 60 metres away from the front lot line and 30 metres from rear lot lines.

Council also looked at a resolution introduced by Coun. Michael Morden, asking the federal government to disclose locations of medical marijuana operations to police in an attempt to reduce needless raids on what are assumed to be illegal operations.

But Daykin doubts if the feds will cooperate. “I’m not holding my breath on that. The trump card, it’s always been a privacy thing.”

From a business point of view, a medical marijuana grow operation is an uncertain proposition, according to greenhouse grower Steve Pelton.

He is with SKP Plant Factory Inc., producers of Kitchen Pick culinary herbs, and said it’s possible that illegal grow operators, who already have the expertise and equipment, could simply switch to become legitimate marijuana producers.

And individual growers, who could easily exceed their quota, could also undermine licensed growers.

“I don’t know how they can police the individual growers.”

The report points out that people with medical-grow certificates do not have to account for their yield.

“I seriously doubt if there’s any money in it,” Pelton said.

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.

Growing marijuana in homes can cause problems for both residents and neighbours because of the amateur nature of electrical works needed to keep the grow lights on. While bad wiring can cause fires, another possible explosive effect could result from using propane-powered carbon dioxide generators indoors. Carbon dioxide is used for speeding plant growth and the propane burners also generate carbon monoxide.

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