Even before the issue came forward at the January 13 District of Sooke council meeting, Michael Nyikes, president of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the opportunity for Sooke to have commercial marijuana grow operations as a viable economic driver.
A report was brought to council by the planning department on the revised federal medical marijuana regulations. The report recommended that staff prepare a Zoning Bylaw Amendment to regulate medical marijuana production facilities in the district and to make no changes to regulate marijuana production.
District planner Gerard LeBlanc stated that the new regulations come into place in April which would disallow individuals from growing medical marijuana and put the growing and distribution into large scale commercial grow operations. All of the growing and packaging will have to be housed in one structure.
LeBlanc said Sooke has the opportunity to zone for such operations in several zones and this could provide an economic benefit to the community. He said there is already a structure in place in the Otter Point Industrial Park in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.
So far the federal government has only approved four licensed production facilities out of the hundreds of applications across the country.
“It should be recognized that permitting those uses through the zoning bylaw… we won’t be inundated with requests,” said LeBlanc.
Councillor Herb Haldane said Sooke has a lot of property owners who have commercial property and he would like to look at all zones to see which would be appropriate for such activity.
Any application for a grow operation would have to pass through a lot of scrutiny. The application would have to pass through the RCMP, local government as well as the federal government. Appropriate zoning, security and type of building would all have to be approved.
Council asked staff to bring forward the appropriate amendments and rationale to permit such operations in agricultural/industrial zones.