Should we be pot-production capital of the world?

City council is considering allowing marijuana production facilities to set up shop in Campbell River.

At its Monday meeting, council gave first and second reading to a zoning amendment bylaw that would permit industrial medical marijuana production plants in specific areas of the city.

Matthew Fitzgerald, city planner, said the bylaw change 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 to assess where this use could be permitted,” Fitzgerald said.

Based on a review of land uses in the city’s business and industrial service centre areas, city staff landed on the Duncan Bay area and the area surrounding the Campbell River Airport.

Fitzgerald said that the use is “generally consistent with many of the established businesses” in the Duncan Bay area and it could be an opportunity to redevelop some vacated industrial parcels.

In the case of the airport, Fitzgerald said that the uses permitted on nearby sites “have many of the same characteristics of a marijuana operation.”

Fitzgerald said that if a facility were to set up shop, it would likely be similar in nature to that of Tilray, an international medical marijuana production company that has a facility in Nanaimo which is licensed by Health Canada. Fitzgerald said it’s in the Duke Point industrial area and resembles a typical industrial building.

“Security features are evident, but otherwise there is nothing distinguishing this as a medical marijuana production facility,” he said, adding that the facility employs 120 people and is planning an expansion that’s expected to add another 275 jobs.

Fitzgerald said the prospect of such a facility in Campbell River has the potential to provide an economic boost and “result in significant employment opportunities.”

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.

On Monday, Kevin Brooks, the city’s development services supervisor, confirmed that, 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.

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.”

In the meantime, the new zoning to accommodate marijuana production facilities will go to a public hearing, likely on Oct. 11, for community input.