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ALR land set aside for weed in the Regional District of Nanaimo

One of the four people who spoke at a recent RDN public hearing on zoning amendments to allow medical marijuana growing facilities. - Auren Ruvinsky photo
One of the four people who spoke at a recent RDN public hearing on zoning amendments to allow medical marijuana growing facilities.
— image credit: Auren Ruvinsky photo

More than 30 people attended a Regional District of Nanaimo public hearing on proposed bylaw amendments to determine where medical marijuana facilities can be located in the regional district, but there didn't appear to be much excitement over the issue.

"You're doing the right thing, I'm tried of being discriminated against for the prescription I need," said resident Ken Meuckon, who like many appeared unclear that the amendments being considered would simply determine where federally-licensed facilities could be located.

"This bylaw is not an attempt by the RDN to enable medical grow-ops, quite the opposite in fact," said RDN Area F (Coombs, Errington) director Julian Fell, who chaired the portion of the hearing dealing with his area.

Fell said there is a lot of misunderstanding around the bylaws which are "intended to restrict grow-ops to those areas designated and selected by higher levels of government for this purpose."

Fell, RDN chair Joe Stanhope and manager of current planning Jeremy Holm each explained that the medical facilities are being allowed by the federal government and there is little local government can do about it except determine zoning and direct where they can be located.

The proposed bylaw would only allow the facilities on agricultural land reserve (ALR) land in electoral areas A, C, E (Nanoose Bay), G (French Creek) and H (Bowser).

In Fell's Area F they would be allowed on land zoned agriculture (A-1) and industrial (I-2).

Fell estimated there could currently be "at least a dozen or two" of the small residential licensed grow-ops in the RDN and that will likely drop to just one or two major facilities under the new laws.

The RDN bylaw would only affect areas outside municipalities like Parksville and Qualicum Beach, which are also each working on their own similar amendments.

Aside from Meuckon, who spoke at length on the benefits of medical marijuana, only three other members of the public spoke, all briefly and agreeing restricting the facilities to agricultural land was probably best, but that the RDN had to make sure they considered details like odour and neighbourhood safety.

The public feedback will be considered when the amended bylaws come back to the Jan. 28 regular board meeting.

While no more comment can be received, information is available at the RDN office at 6300 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo and at www.rdn.bc.ca/. Call the planning department at 1-877-607-4111 or e-mail planning@rdn.bc.ca.

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