A medical marijuana operator looking to set up shop in Pitt Meadows would likely wilt at the reception from city hall.
Council is reluctant to allow a large industrial medicinal marijuana operation in the municipality. It reviewed the idea of allowing such as grow-op in the Agricultural Land Reserve, at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, and responded with comments that were mostly negative.
Council said the service demands – for water, hydro, police and fire – could be prohibitive.
“Adverse environmental impacts such as waste water disposal and odor remain a concern,” it said.
Councillors also voiced a number of concerns about the governance of medical marijuana, saying the federal government is downloading the responsibility for enforcement onto municipalities.
Council noted there are approximately 20 such licenced facilities Canada-wide, and about five are in British Columbia. They are licenced by Health Canada.
“I want to know what they’re going to do about the number of grow-ops we have in our city,” said Coun. Gwen O’Connell.
She said the smell of the pot cultivation operations leaves little doubt as to where many of them are in Pitt Meadows.
“We have to deal with what we’ve got right now, before we go on to anything else.”
There are roughly 13,000 licenced marijuana growers across Canada. The federal government will ask them to shut down, but does not have an enforcement plan. The operators are fighting the closures in court, and won a reprieve.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters said council was commenting specifically on pot growing operations in the ALR, at government request. That discussion outlined how there is still general confusion around the new laws, and how they will impact municipalities. The new process is not clearly spelled out.
She said most municipalities do not want these operators in their industrial parks, but also do not believe they should be entitled to many of the benefits that agricultural operations in the ALR enjoy – such as low taxes.
“It’s a business, and it should be taxed as a business,” said Walters.
She reiterated O’Connell’s opinion that local and senior government should be working on how to disband existing illegal grow-ops, and what to do about those licenced to grow legally under the outgoing medical marijuana plan.
She believes there are still some that were licenced in Pitt Meadows, and they have never been required to tell the city where they were located.
Earlier this month, the College of Family Physicians issued guidelines to Canadian doctors about when it is appropriate to prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients.
That body also expressed frustration with the process. The college estimates that 40,000 Canadians use marijuana for a variety of medical purposes, but said there is a need for more research.
Walters acknowledged Pitt Meadows sites will likely be considered by growers because it is a large agricultural community close to Vancouver. A medical marijuana operation would potentially be a good employer, she conceded.
Still, she said, councillors would not welcome one at this time.
“We don’t want one.”
Council sent its comments to the agriculture ministry, Agricultural Land Commission and Metro Vancouver. It also referred the discussion paper to the local Agricultural Advisory Committee, Economic Development Corporation Board, Fire department and RCMP for comments.