An amendment to zoning Bylaw 582 would have seen Medical Marijuana Production Facilities as permitted uses in rural, agricultural and industrial zones in the District of Sooke.
The amendment had already passed unanimously through first and second reading in February, 2014, but at the April 14 council meeting some members of council backed away from endorsing the bylaw. Amendments also included definitions of “horticulture” and “Medical Marijuana Production Facilities (MMPF).”
A public hearing was held on April 14 to guage the public sentiment on the zoning amendment.
Only one person stood up to speak to the issue. Michael Nyikes, president of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce, stated investors had met with the chamber and had multi-millions of dollars to spend on medical marijuana production facilities.
“It is an economic development opportunity,” said Nyikes. “It creates local jobs and local convenience and additional tax revenue.”
There were comments made about the tax revenue from those agricultural properties versus commercial tax revenue. If the property is used for agriculture, ie: MMPFs, then the tax rate is calculated accordingly. It would not be commercial.
A motion was made by Councillor Herb Haldane to keep all MMPFs in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Discussion ensued on the agricultural zones located in the Whiffin Spit area and the possibility that MMPFs could be located there.
Mayor Wendal Milne stated he was worried about the impact on neighbours if MMPFs were attached to a specific zone.
Councillor Kerrie Reay said she felt this whole MMPF issue was moving too quickly and that marijuana was still an illegal drug.
There was discussion on the rights of people who are already growing medical marijuana for themselves.
Councillor Rick Kasper said he did not want to see “people’s rights trampled.”
It was made clear that on issues of what happens on ALR land, the Agricultural Land Commission was in charge and their authority trumped the district’s.
Concerns were raised by referral agencies as to location of MMPFs, as in proximity to regional parks and trails, setbacks, access to site in case of emergency, hazardous materials on site and the need for a fire safety plan.
Planner Gerard LeBlanc said that restrictions could be put into place in the bylaw to limit where MMPFs could be located.
In March the Federal Court granted an interlocutory constitutional exemption allowing production of medical marijuana in a home or private dwelling legal, thereby preserving the rights of authorized users and producers. This would be for a set period before it came before the court again.
In the end vote, it was a tie and the motion was defeated. Council made a motion to wait until the federal court case is settled to deal with this issue – in about nine months.