Corralling medical pot grows

District of Mission moves to restrict location of operations

Commercial marijuana producers will only be able to legally set up an operation on industrial or Agricultural Land Reserve areas in Mission next spring.

And even if the right location is identified, the applicant will have to apply for a comprehensive development zoning to allow such a use, which would trigger a public process, and leave the decision to in the hands of council. Applicants would also be asked to prove the operation would be a benefit to the community.

District staff identified a few dozen locations that meet the minimal parcel size (9.8 acres for industrial lands and 19 acres for ALR) and minimal setbacks (23 feet for industrial and 98.5 feet for ALR), but at Monday night’s council meeting, Coun. Dave Hensman said he wanted to see the industrial lot size increased as there is a property downtown that would suit such an operation.

Mission is preparing the policy in anticipation of the changes Ottawa is making to its medical marijuana grow licenses, which are scheduled to come into effect April 2014. The federal government is cancelling home-based growing licenses in favour of commercial producers.

Coun. Nelson Tilbury said he wasn’t in favour of prohibition and believes making it more difficult will only increase the price of the product.

“We’re saying we don’t want it anywhere in our community, but we’ll allow it in certain areas,” said Mayor Ted Adlem. “We’ll listen to you. I don’t know if the District of Mission should even considering housing something like this. We’re not talking about small stuff.”

If the feds give out 100 licences and Mission doesn’t get one, Adlem says he won’t be sorry.

Adlem, along with Hensman, predicts there will be hundreds of illegal marijuana grow operations in April when the new rules come into effect. There are more than 700 licenses to grow in Mission, according to the district, which received the figures after submitting a freedom of information request earlier this year.

Health Canada representative Todd Cain told civic politicians at last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention that current licensees will be sent a letter notifying them to cease production, decommission and remediate their property.

Hensman worried the lack of enforcement to make sure current growers are complying will leave the problem in the hands of the district. Ottawa refused to identify licensees so cities could inspect them and ensure they’re safe.

“There needs to be a plan to bring people to conformity,” said Hensman. “We want to work with the Conservative government to ensure proper steps are taken and enforcement dollars are not downloaded to municipalities.”

Mission resident Shawn Elliott told Mission council her quality of life has been compromised since a legalized marijuana grow op was established in her neighbourhood.

“I live behind one at the corner of Stave Lake and Dewdney Trunk Road,” she said, adding her family no longer enjoys the “oasis” they created in their backyard and they don’t feel safe in their own home.

“It’s uncomfortable.”

She described the sounds of a big, loud truck pulling up every morning to pick up and deliver the product and the “stench” that emanates every time the door to her neighbour’s house is opened and closed.

Things got worse when someone found out about the legal grow op and tried to break in, she said, noting every time she hears voices behind the fence, she has to look to make sure people aren’t trying to break into her home.

The only way municipalities know there is a legalized grow op in an area is when neighbours report it, said Adlem, adding operations like the one described by Elliott will be illegal on April 1, 2014.

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