Grow op proposed

Application comes as North Saanich council votes to allow medical marijuana

A grower of medical marijuana has given notice to the District of North Saanich that it wants to set up a grow operation on McTavish Road and a recent council vote would allow it.

Those plans added a twist to council’s recent debate over whether to allow medical marijuana production sites in their community. Cannan Growers Inc. wrote on Jan. 16 to the District, fire department and local RCMP indicating their intent to seek a licence to produce medical marijuana. In the letter, Cannan spokesperson Roberto Bresciani stated they intend to make formal application to Health Canada “on or around Feb. 7.”

Mayor Alice Finall asked during the Jan. 27 committee of the whole session if the application would put it outside of any prohibition on medical marijuana production in North Saanich.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan replied that a formal business licence application might have to come in for that to be the case. Director of Planning and Community Services Mark Brodrick added “the clock doesn’t start ticking until we have a full application.”

Councillor Craig Mearns asked if the District can prohibit medical marijuana production within its borders. Buchan said the federal government has stated it will honour the wishes of local governments on this matter.

The application arrived at municipal hall right before council’s scheduled debate over whether to prohibit such operations in the municipality. In December, council overturned their plan to implement a temporary prohibition.

They then asked for feedback on that plan from their Agricultural and Environmental advisory commissions as well as the Peninsula Agricultural Commission. Only the latter has not yet submitted their recommendations to council.

The AAC recommended council follow through with its temporary ban, followed six months later by a review and possible public consultation on the issue. Alternately, they stated if council allows medical marijuana production, it should be kept off of agricultural land and moved into industrial or commercial areas.

The EAC only asked that environmental impacts from any such operation be evaluated.

Finall said council overturned its planned prohibition in December in consideration of agricultural producers who might wish to pursue the option of growing marijuana for medical purposes. After two residents addressed council and asked that they impose a ban, citing safety and questionable agricultural value to the community, Finall asked council to support their original plan to temporarily prohibit medical marijuana.

That motion received the support of Coun. Elsie McMurphy, stating once the District allows it, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to go back.

“I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction if we support this motion,” countered Coun. Ted Daly.

He said he didn’t want to be in a position of telling agricultural land owners what to do, when growing marijuana for medical purposed is legal. Daly added that comparing this sort of operation to illegal grow ops is “a tangent.”

Council voted not to implement a prohibition, a decision that was to be ratified at their Feb. 3 regular meeting (result not available prior to PNR press time Monday).