EDITORIAL: One hazy issue

Municipal councils are caught between a rock and pungent place when it comes to the operation of medical marijuana facilities within their borders.

While court challenges have the rules and regulations somewhat in limbo right now, a couple of things are clear:

• the federal government will have the final say on who is licensed to grow weed;

• towns and cities have little recourse when it comes to what the provincial government considers permitted uses on land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)

So, what's a city to do? Parksville is struggling with that question right now, and they are trying to set up bylaws and zoning changes to at least have some say in where these licensed grow-ops can operate.

There are blocks of land in the city that are under the jurisdiction of the ALR. That means they have a limited amount of permitted uses, and history shows it doesn't really matter if nothing did, or could, grow on the land. What's more, the decisions on what is or is not a permitted use — from cherry orchards to indoor medical marijuana grow-ops — are made in Victoria and not by local elected officials.

The problems, from a community perspective, arise when these ALR lands are close to residences or schools. Secure and regulated to the teeth or not, a licensed grow-op near an elementary school just doesn't seem responsible.

There are a few blocks of land in the city that are zoned agricultural but are not in the ALR. The city is taking steps to ensure their bylaws won't allow grow-ops on these lands. It's not that the city is taking a moral stand — staff and councillors seem to think this kind of operation would be better suited in the industrial park, which makes sense.

Mayor Chris Burger has said the following previously, but he said it again Monday night in light of what he thinks the future holds for marijuana in this country, and how these new grow-ops could turn into mega-profitable operations when regulations loosen and one won't need a prescription to legally get some weed. We leave you with the mayor's prediction:

"Within five years, marijuana will be fully legal both for medical and recreational purposes."

— Editorial by John Harding

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