Pitt Meadows is a step closer to seeing marijuana processed in south Bonson.
In a unanimous decision Tuesday, council requested Pinecone Products submit a rezoning application that, if approved, would allow a cannabis processing and research facility to open in the first phase of the Golden Ears Business Park.
Coun. Janis Elkerton praised the concept as a “win-win” at the meeting.
“I see this as a great opportunity for this community,” she said, pointing to Pinecone’s promise of 30 to 40 new jobs once the facility opened, as well as additional tax revenue for the city.
But Coun. Bill Dingwall urged caution and patience moving forward, especially as Canada waits for the federal Liberals to unveil its proposed marijuana legalization bill next year.
“We’re still midstream with the federal government on this, and there are many unanswered questions in regards to research, cultivation, and so on, and what can and can’t be allowed,” he said.
Of paramount concern to Dingwall is making sure cannabis businesses — even ones dedicated solely to research and extraction like the one proposed — won’t be allowed in the proposed third and fourth phases of the controversial business park. Those phases, not yet built, would be closer to residential areas.
“We need to make sure that the language in the amendment is extremely site-specific, because these types of businesses have no place near residential zones,” Dingwall said.
Megan Mercier, a Pitt Meadows resident who lives close to the development site for the proposed business park expansion, echoed Dingwall’s concerns.
“I wouldn’t want criminals and the like being attracted to this facility when they know there’s products in there that they can get good money for,” she said.
Pinecone first requested the rezoning at a March 28 council meeting, when company co-founder Reid Parr gave a presentation on the proposed facility.
At that time, council denied the request only to conduct further research on the proposal, presented again Tuesday ahead of council’s decision.
Pitt Meadows, in its current bylaw, prohibits any type of marijuana-related business in all zones. Pinecone hopes to amend that to allow such businesses in industrial zones.
Pinecone, which provides extraction equipment and products to developers and suppliers across Canada, has already designed the facility, which would extract oils from cannabis provided by cultivation and growing centres.
Once extracted, the oils would then be sent back to distributors for retail purposes.
The proposed facility would also provide research opportunities, in partnership with SFUs biological sciences department.
Mercier said the scientific aspect of the facility has her conflicted on where she stands on the rezoning proposal.
“I think it could be beneficial for Pitt Meadows to be the home of a facility that’s on the cutting edge of this science,” she added.
“But at the same time, I’m concerned that once council approves this, other businesses will come out of the woodwork and could end up infiltrating phases three and four, if they get built.
“That’s where I draw the line, and I don’t really have faith that council will do what’s necessary to prevent it.”
As for security, Pinecone’s original presentation to council showed those concerns had been considered in the design of the facility.
The facility would be monitored 24 hours a day by cameras and security staff.
Further security procedures would also be implemented, although those weren’t described in detail at the time.
Pinecone’s parent company, Ascent Industries, also owns Agrima Botanicals, a marijuana development and cultivation business that opened in Maple Ridge in 2013.
Coun. Elkerton said Tuesday that she has visited the Agrima facility, which is located in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and was impressed.
“These guys, they’re a top-notch facility,” she said, addressing concerns about possible odours related to marijuana cultivation.
“I’ve taken the opportunity to talk with councilors in Maple Ridge, and they say they’ve had no problems with this facility,” Elkerton added.
Parr, with Ascent, said that council’s decison instills confidence in the proposal.
“We are glad to be recognized as a research-focused company looking to create quality employment in the community,” Parr said Thursday.
He added they recognize the need to apply for a text amendment as part of the process.