Five applications for licensed medical marijuana facilities within the Regional District of Central Kootenay have been with Health Canada

Five applications for licensed medical marijuana facilities within the Regional District of Central Kootenay have been with Health Canada

Interest exists to grow medical pot around Nakusp

Health Canada regulations favour large corporations over small producers, say RDCK directors

Paul Peterson has some words of advice for anyone looking to establish a legal medical marijuana facility in the area — don’t bother.

“In my humble opinion, they’re all wasting their time,” said the Area K director. “What I’ve seen in the federal government is they’re looking for huge corporate interest in growing pot, not some little guy.”

He told the Arrow Lakes News that about five people have asked him about establishing a facility. “I hope I talked most of them out of it, not putting too much money into it.”

The interest in licensed marijuana facilities stems from changes to Health Canada regulations that as of April 1, Canadians licensed to use medical pot will no longer be allowed to grow their own supply. Small-scale producers are expected to be replaced with large commercial operations.

Health Canada has notified the Regional District of Central Kootenay of five potential applicants for new medicinal marijuana licenses, including two in the lower Slocan Valley, one on the Arrow Lakes, and one in rural Kaslo.

Peterson’s comments were echoed by other RDCK directors.

“The chances of us having a legal grow-up in the RDCK are pretty slim, because the government appears to be favouring large corporations,” rural Kaslo director Andy Shadrack said at an RDCK board meeting last week.

Still, staff were instructed to proceed with draft bylaws governing such facilities to minimize the impact on neighbours. The board has already stated medical marijuana can only be grown in agricultural zones or on property in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but a series of land use bylaws may be amended to regulate things like parcel size, setbacks, site coverage, and parking.

Special development permit areas may also be established to regulate “unique aspects” of marijuana production facilities, including landscaping and lighting.

However, public hearings will be required before the changes are adopted, even in areas where no applications have been received.

Medical grow-ops are also allowed in areas that lack zoning, such as the lower Slocan, where they will only face limited controls through development permits, in addition to Health Canada requirements.

Other jurisdictions have taken different approaches to the upcoming rule changes. Richmond and Abbotsford are seeking to ban medical marijuana grow-ops

North of Nakusp, in the rural Revelstoke area, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District put regulations in a new zoning bylaw that would allow grow-ops only on a parcel of land at least 30 hectares in size and that is zoned specifically for medical marijuana facilities or within the Agricultural Land Reserve. An Official Community Plan amendment and re-zoning would be required before developing any facility.

Around Nakusp, there has been some interest in developing a licensed medical marijuana facility within village limits.

Rodney Potapoff approached village council about opening a licensed marijuana facility last April. He declined to be interviewed about where his plans were at, citing a lack of support from the community.

He recently told the CBC that he was ready to start growing at a barn he’d leased, but that Health Canada regulations favoured big corporations.

Linda Tynan, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Village of Nakusp, said crafting a marijuana policy would be looked into “when time allows.”

She said no action was taken on Potapoff’s application because “he found something else he was interested in.”

She said the village still is getting inquiries from people about opening a facility in Nakusp.

“I’m letting them know that council didn’t indicate they were necessarily against it but they were interested in entertaining it in commercial or institutional or industrial areas,” she said. “If someone would come forward with an actual proposal , we would look at it at that time.”

The RDCK has issued “letters of comfort” to the five groups that intend to apply for licenses, confirming they meet zoning rules.

However, rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham, who chairs the RDCK’s rural affairs committee, said he fears problems with the new system since only a half dozen licenses have been approved.

“The old growers will be banned and the new production facilities won’t be ready, so for six months or a year, it’s going to be very difficult for those using medical marijuana to obtain anything legally,” he said. “Maybe they should stock up.”

According to a memo, RDCK planning staff know of two production facilities under current rules and have responded to “numerous” phone calls from people interested in pursuing licensing under the new regulations.

With files from Greg Nesteroff/Black Press