The District of Hope is taking steps to ensure medical marijuana grow operations don’t pop up in residential neighborhoods.
Council adopted a zoning amendment bylaw on Monday night in preparation for a new federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations program by Health Canada, which takes effect April 1. The change will see small, personal medical grow operations replaced by a number of large commercial dispensaries that meet extensive security and quality control requirements.
“Having this bylaw in place before anything manifests means we’re a little step ahead of the game,” said Mayor Susan Johnston. “We’re trying hard not to open ourselves up to something we can’t control at a later date.”
Under the district bylaw, medical marijuana production is permitted on land zoned for agricultural use with a minimum lot area of four hectares (10 acres). Minimum setbacks of 15 metres (50 feet) will be required and residential dwellings are not allowed on the same parcel. In addition, production facilities have to be located a minimum of 100 metres (328 feet) from all properties zoned for residential and country residential, as well as a minimum of 500 metres (1,640 feet) from all schools, churches, hospitals and senior housing. The district also requires that outdoor lighting not negatively impact neighbouring properties, servicing for facilities be designed by a qualified professional, and the applicant provide proof of a valid licence application to Health Canada.
“Because medical marijuana was not defined in a bylaw, we had to treat it as an agricultural product,” said Scott Misumi, director of community development. “So what we thought we would do is try to put more restrictions on it. We actually did quite a thorough inventory of all our land, and a large percentage of our land is non-conforming. They’re smaller than the minimum parcel size, which eliminates a lot of those parcels. The setbacks will also eliminate quite a few more parcels.”
He pointed out that the district not only wanted commercial medical marijuana operations out of dense residential areas, but also industrial areas. Some municipalities have opted to allow dispensaries on industrial land in order to have better control over the operation as well as benefit from taxation. However, BC Assessment assesses land based on its use, regardless of its zone. Misumi said it was not a good fit for Hope since all industrial zones are located along Old Hope-Princeton Way.