Residents of Pitt Meadows are going to get their chance to speak out on the city’s current ban on all things marijuana.
The city gave the green light on the first two readings of a proposed bylaw Tuesday night that would allow Pinecone Products to open a research and processing facility in Phase 2 of the Golden Ears Business Park.
The go-ahead means there will be a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3.
The proposed pharmaceutical plant would employ between 30 to 40 people, according to the company’s submission to council.
Coun. Janice Elkerton, acting mayor in John Becker’s absence, said she supports the idea of going forward with the proposed plant. She’s had a chance to tour Pinecone’s facilities and was impressed with their operation. In addition, she said changing the bylaw still leaves council in control for future applications.
“This is site-specific,” noted Elkerton. “This is not opening the gates to everyone, this is the way we can control it.”
In a report to council, Pitt Meadows city staff recommended drafting a new bylaw to permit the use of the space at the business park, but continuing to restrict the growing or dispensing of marijuana in the city.
The idea is to follow in the footsteps of communities like Burnaby and Richmond, which rely on a site-specific approach, subject to council’s discretion.
Elkerton said she was looking forward to a public hearing and said council will need to be adaptive as the federal and provincial guidelines are rolled out regarding the impending legalization of recreational marijuana, slated to become law in July 2018.
The federal legislation will leave the distribution and sale of legal marijuana in the hands of the provinces and territories. As of yet, there is no plan in place in B.C on how recreational products are sold.
The lack of clarity is why Coun. Bill Dingwall, a former RCMP officer, said he opposed the idea of the public hearing.
He preferred to wait until the federal and provincial governments put forward their plans so council has more clarity on the issue.
“I think we just need to defer this as opposed to moving it forward,” said Dingwall, the lone voice of dissent on council. “Let’s find out what the landscape looks like. Let’s find out who’s doing what, who’s doing the testing, the production, the marketing, all of that, which will then give good guidance and advice to municipalities like ours.”
Elkerton said council also opens itself to legal challenges if it refuses to go ahead with public hearings based on violations set out in the community charter.
Dingwall dismissed that notion.
“It’s pretty hard to sue anybody when you are still waiting on info around a policy that follows regulations with the production and the testing,” he said. “So this isn’t about denying it, it’s deferring it until we get more information.”
Reid Parr of Pinecone Products said he respects Dingwall’s concerns, but emphasized there is a rigerourous process in application place.
“We will be applying to do certain activities related to cannabis at that facility, like producing gel caps, and medicinal products that would be regulated like a pharmaceutical company,” said Parr.
All products processed at the Pitt Meadows building would be shipped back to the company’s 20,000 square-foot production facility in Maple Ridge for storage and distribution, according to the application.
Currently, under the Narcotic Control Regulations, labs with a dealer’s licence are allowed to conduct analytical testing and processing in products like capsules and oils.
Pinecone Products’ application also outlines its plan for perimeter and interior security systems, including access control, motion sensors and high-resolution cameras.
In addition there are plans odor control, managed using recirculating pelletized charcoal filters and filtration with exhaust vents using charcoal, UV, and ozone.