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Council weighs in on marijuana grow-op development

Posted on August 7, 2014 by Taber Times

A government-approved medical marijuana grow-op isn’t about to put down roots in Taber. But that doesn’t mean the municipality might not be viewed as an attractive location for a medical marijuana production facility in future.

With no current regulations within the town’s Land Use Bylaw 4-2006 to govern the creation of such a facility, at the July 21 town council meeting  administration suggested time is of the essence for the municipality to insulate itself from any potential legal ramifications involved with the industry, should interest exist in future.

“The reason we’re bringing this forward is there’s absolutely no proposal for any medical marijuana facility in the community right now,” said planning manager Cory Armfelt. “However, as part of municipal best practice, we have been warned by other municipalities that we don’t want to be caught without any sort of regulation, and our legal professionals have indicated that you just can’t say no. You basically need to provide an opportunity to receive an application, and then you can certainly say no, once you have a framework in place to say no. But just simply saying we are not open for this type of business is open to challenge.”

Council voted unanimously to pass first reading of Land Use Bylaw 9-2014 to amend Land Use Bylaw 4-2006, and scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 18, 2014.

“What we’re doing here is that we are requesting that this become a direct control of the municipality, so any application to move forward would be coming for council’s decision,” said Armfelt.

Effective April 1, the process for medical patients legally obtaining medical marijuana has changed. All marijuana now used in this manner will need to be obtained from commercial growers licensed by the federal government. According to administration, “As the federal government has made this enterprise legal, communities are not in a position to debate the merits of the treatment or to ban these operations” but can regulate development permit conditions and locations.

“I attended a session last fall where they discussed the medical marijuana issue, and it is of concern,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux. “We can be sued for discrimination if we turn down somebody without a good bylaw behind us. I think this is a really good example of a proactive bylaw that we really should address right now.”

Administration considers integrating a definition and regulations around medical marijuana into Land Use Bylaw 4-2006 would be proactive and allow the town to be prepared should it receive an application for a medical marijuana production facility in future.

Administration is proposing any medical marijuana production facility be evaluated in the Direct Control (DC) district. This option would give council control over decisions regarding location and operations of a medical marijuana production facility.

“All of these facilities need to abide by federal regulations,” said Armfelt. I’ve looked through it. I don’t know if Taber has a site right now that is serviced that could meet all those federal regulations, with regard to buffering, and security is obviously a very big one. In any event, this is why your administration is recommending that we move through some sort of regulation so there can be an official decision made through appropriate channels.”  The Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations Act contains very specific details on the security, operating and inspection procedures required for these kinds of facilities. Applicants have to demonstrate they meet these regulations set forth by the federal government, prior to municipal approval.

According to the bylaw, any facility involved in this kind of activity must include equipment designed to remove odours and pollen from the air where it is discharged from the building as part of the ventilation system, and maintain an appropriate buffer distance from any residential area.

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