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Parksville tries to prepare for medical marijuana operations

If medical marijuana operations want to set up shop in Parksville, the city wants to have some say in where the weed is produced.

City council has instructed staff to come up with bylaws that could essentially steer any potential operation to the industrial park. Staff and council seem resigned to the fact they won't have much say about lands within the city boundary that are in the Agricultural Land Reserve — the Agricultural Land Commission has said growing medical marijuana will be a permitted farm use in the ALR.

"Our hands are somewhat tied," said director of planning Blaine Russell.

When a potential producer applies to Health Canada for a licence, the federal government requires the applicant to notify the local government. The city has received one notice of intent from someone who is applying for a licence (on ALR land within the city facing Shelly Road).

"It is expected that federal process will will ultimately be a stringent one where accountability and security are the highest priorities," Russell wrote in his report to council. "Given the requirements, it is anticipated that few applications will ultimately be approved."

Council passed a motion Monday night directing staff to come up with bylaw(s) for future consideration that would increase setbacks for this type of operation and change the industrial park zoning to include medical marijuana production as a permitted use.

Court challenges have the laws and procedures around the production of medical marijuana in limbo, but Russell told council federal regulations will ensure the pot is grown indoors in a secure facility.

Last year, Mayor Chris Burger floated the idea of attracting medical marijuana producers as a potential revenue (tax) source for the city. On Monday night, he said he's heard anecdotally an operation in Nanaimo is doing well and looking to hire more people.

Just in case council was considering a city-wide prohibition on growing medical marijuana, in his report, Russell also said, given recent court decisions, "it is unlikely that a city-wide prohibition would ultimately be successful."

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