Pot production soon to be permitted

Marijuana production facilities will soon be allowed to set up shop in Campbell River, although they will be restricted to certain areas of the city.

At last week’s city council meeting, councillors gave third reading and adoption to a zoning amendment bylaw that will permit industrial-scale medical marijuana production plants to set up shop.

The facilities will be limited to areas in the city zoned I-2 (heavy industrial, warehousing, storage yards), which are found in the Duncan Bay area, and lands zoned A-1 and A-2 (warehouses, airport, aviation related services, forestry) which are solely out by the airport.

Matthew Fitzgerald, city planner, said the move is in response to the federal government’s August, 2016 enactment of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, which will permit facilities licensed by Health Canada to grow and sell medical marijuana.

“Further legislative changes and an expression of interest in developing a medical marijuana production facility has resulted in staff revisiting the zoning regulations,” Fitzgerald said.

He stressed that any production facility wanting to open for business in Campbell River must be licensed through Health Canada, which imposes a series of regulations around security, quality control, and other conditions that a facility must abide by.

Fitzgerald explained that any potential marijuana production facility in Campbell River would likely be similar in nature to that of Tilray, an international medical marijuana production company with a facility in Nanaimo. The business is licensed by Health Canada and resembles a typical industrial building in Nanaimo’s Duke Point area.

“Security features are evident but otherwise there is nothing distinguishing this as a medical marijuana production facility,” Fitzgerald said, adding that such a facility in Campbell River would provide “significant employment opportunities” and an economic boost. Tilray employs 120 people and is planning an expansion that’s expected to add another 275 jobs.

He stressed, however, that the new rules only permit production of medicinal marijuana (if licensed through Health Canada), and not the sale of the product for either recreational or medical marijuana.

“It will not allow the retail locations for either medical or recreational marijuana,” Fitzgerald said.

Kevin Brooks, the city’s development services supervisor, confirmed that at a council meeting in September, saying that the new regulations brought in by the federal government are purely a way to move marijuana production to a larger scale model.

“Our understanding is the long-term goal is to transition over time from home-based, to the centralized industrial approach to medical marijuana,” Brooks said.

At that same September meeting, Mayor Andy Adams thanked city staff for staying on top of the evolving regulations and keeping city council up to speed.

“I really appreciate staff being as proactive as possible and trying to keep council in-step and in-pace with what’s happening.”