Medical pot bylaw gets easy ride

Only a handful speak on proposal to put pot in ALR.

Maple Ridge is proposing to allow commercial medical marijuana operations in ALR.

Betty von Hardenberg wanted to know what is it about medical pot production that Maple Ridge likes – that other municipalities don’t?

Other cities such as Pitt Meadows, Langley, Chilliwack and Delta have all banned new medical marijuana operations from farmland and instead has directed them to industrial parks, the Thornhill resident pointed out Tuesday at a public hearing.

So why is Maple Ridge directing such operations on to its Agricultural Land Reserve lands, “Without any consideration for the health and safety of the neighbouring community in the ALR?”

Von Hardenberg, was one of the few who spoke against the amendment to Maple Ridge’s zoning bylaw that will allow such operations only within the ALR within the district.

Shouldn’t the district’s goal be to protect the wider community?

“This is a very specific bylaw. It appears to be tailored for a specific applicant or applicants within the ALR.”

Only three others addressed the topic, one speaker in favour and one asking the district to wait until the court case challenging the federal government’s banning smaller producers.

Earlier this year, Maple Ridge had proposed a wider use of agricultural lands for medical pot operations then after a public hearing, rescinded that and put forward a new amendment restricting them to the ALR.

The district has been bolstered in its case by a ruling from the Agricultural Land Commission recognizing medical pot production as a legitmate use of farmland. As a result, cities can regulate, but not prohibit such operations.

Maple Ridge is making the change to prepare for new federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes regulaion which takes effect April 1 and which encourages large commercial operations and phases out smaller, personal medical grow operations.

James Poelzer with Agrima Botanicals though said the new medical marijuana operations will be highly regulated and will address health, noise, safety, security and environmental issues, as per Health Canada requirements.

Agrima is converting a building in Maple Ridge that used to grow medical pot under the previous rules, and has applied for a licence under the new rules so it can produce medical marijuana.

It’s still waiting to hear from Health Canada and won’t get its federal licence until inspectors have been on site.

“We hope to be running when the new rules come into effect.”

He said he appreciated von Hardenberg’s concerns, which many people have.

“I encourage her to look a little more closely into it.”

All of von Hardenberg’s concerns are addressed by Health Canada regulations, he added.

He compared large-scale medical marijuana operations that will operate under the new regime to gas stations, banks or jewelry stores which have similar security concerns.

“In my opinion, it’s actually very forward thinking of Maple Ridge to put it in the ALR.”

He said Maple Ridge’s bylaw change also will allow pot to be grown in greenhouses, a cheaper method of production than growing in a completely indoor setting.

That could allow cheaper production and prices for medical marijuana, he pointed out.

And producing in an agricultural area makes sense, given that marijuana production involves growing a plant, in a greenhouse.

“If that’s not agriculture, I don’t know what is.”

Council will vote on the bylaw change at a later meeting.

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