North Saanich politicians are on the verge of changing their minds over the production of medical marijuana in their community — but first they want to seek the opinions of local farmers.
On Dec. 2, the District council actually enacted an outright prohibition on licensed medical marijuana production within North Saanich boundaries.
By Dec. 16, however, several councillors had changed their minds thanks to the lobbying of Ted Daly who was the lone holdout in the Dec. 2 vote.
When the prohibition was brought back to council by staff for another vote this week (this time to add further rationale to the bylaw), it was apparent a majority of council no longer wanted the prohibition.
“I’m not even sure we can legally (do this),” Councillor Daly said.
He noted that the production of medical marijuana is allowed on Agricultural Land Reserve property — and such is the case with a new facility being built in the neighbouring community of Central Saanich.
“I still think it’s wrong,” Daly continued, adding he’s in favour of enhancing local farming — even if it’s medical marijuana.
Coun. Dunstan Browne said he came around to Daly’s position when he thought about farmers growing barley, hops and yeast — ingredients in beer.
That, he said, is legal to grow, so why not medical marijuana?
Also changing their minds Monday night were Craig Mearns and Conny McBride.
“I was against (medical marijuana production) two times,” said McBride, “but North Saanich allows wineries. Alcohol has just as many vices as (marijuana) and the drug companies need legal grow-ops to have access.
“I’m still waffling.”
Mearns added the District could end up in legal trouble over an outright prohibition.
Yet despite voting 4-3 on Monday night not to confirm their earlier vote, District staff pointed out council would have to go through the added process of rescinding their Dec. 2 vote.
Instead of doing that, council decided to keep the existing prohibition in place for now, ordered staff not to proceed with changing any bylaws and asked that the issue be reviewed by the Peninsula Agricultural Commission and other District committees.
“I’d really like to hear from the farmers before we make a decision,” said Browne.
Coun. Celia Stock pointed out the earlier prohibition vote set out a six-month period to review any ramifications of the policy, stating council would then have a chance to revisit their decision.
Mayor Alice Finall and Coun. Elsie McMurphy both joined Stock in voting to keep the prohibition in place.
In a later interview, Finall said she wasn’t sure why the councillors changed their minds from one meeting to the next.
“This was well-discussed and initially had only the one holdout (Daly),” she said.
Other than that, the mayor said she had no further comment.
District’s reasons for banning pot production
In an updated report, North Saanich staff outlined a rationale for allowing a prohibition of the production of medical marijuana in the community. Those include specific authority areas under B.C.’s Community Charter:
• demand on municipal services
• public health and welfare
• nuisance and disturbance
• fire and electrical safety
Other concerns out of the District include:
• lack of local servicing in a mostly-rural community
• odour, noise and light pollution
• groundwater contamination concerns
• security concerns
• compatibility within the community
• property value impacts.