Sooke needn’t worry about a huge rush of applications for medical marijuana facilities in the district, but just in case, bylaws are being amended.
At District of Sooke council on March 10, council gave second reading to zoning amendment Bylaw 582. The amendments were made because staff became aware of properties in the district which have a medical marijuana facilities listed as principal permitted uses. Some of these properties are in settled areas such as Whiffin Spit Road and Otter Point Road.
Initially zoning would have allowed medical marijuana production facilities (MMP) in RU1 to 5 zones as well as industrial zones. Changes would not allow MMP facilities in RU5 zones.
The Agricultural Land Commission states they do not consider marijuana to be much different agriculturally speaking, than any other crop. And see no problem with it within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The changes to Bylaw 582 would amend the definition of horticulture to exclude MMP facilities, provide a definition for MMP and would add MMP facilities as a principal permitted use to industrial zones. MMP facilities licenced by the federal government will be allowed in an industrial zone or on ALR land in a rural zone. Any zoning the district puts in place can be trumped by the ALC, said planner Gerard LeBlanc.
Acting Mayor Kerrie Reay stated she was concerned council would be opening the door to MMP facilities in places you really wouldn’t want them to be.
Concerns were raised in the fire department referral as to hazardous materials, access in the face of heavy security at facilities and need for water in case of fire.
Councillor Herb Haldane said marijuana grow operations are already in the neighbourhood.
“These aren’t meth labs, it’s marijuana and they are using fertilizers same as for tomatoes,” said Haldane. “They’re not cooking things up in the bathtub. There’s a demand for this because of health issues, cancer issues.”
Currently the federal government has licenced only seven MMP facilities across the country. Haldane said he didn’t see MMP facilities as being a big issue here.
“We’re going to have to start being more liberal and open-minded,” said Haldane.
A public hearing will be scheduled for Bylaw 582 where residents can have their questions answered.
There is a MMP facility being proposed in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, specifically in the industrial park off Otter Point Road.
Council was asked to respond as a referral agency and it was agreed the district’s interests are not affected by proposed zoning bylaws in the Juan de Fuca EA.
Councillor Rick Kasper stated he fully supports the actions they take in their jurisdiction. Council agreed.