By Trevor Busch
Town council has assumed direct control over approval of any potential medical marijuana production facility in the community following the passing of an amendment to the town’s land-use bylaw.
At their Aug. 18 meeting, town council voted unanimously to pass third and final reading of Bylaw 9-2014.
As no current regulations existed 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.
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.
Due to changes in federal legislation which came into force on April 1, medical marijuana production facilities could be an industrial activity which private enterprises consider attractive as a business opportunity. Medical marijuana production facilities are highly regulated by the federal government, while the Town of Taber had no evaluation criteria for these kinds of developments under its current land-use bylaw.
“Just to inform council, I’ve spent hours and hours reading bylaws from other communities that have medicinal marijuana facilities,” said Coun. Randy Sparks in a report to council following the vote. “I spent a lot of time reading, and I consider myself — I’m not an expert on marijuana, but on bylaws concerning marijuana — even though it was a lot of time, it was time well spent.”
Bylaw 9-2014 now provides town council with complete decision making authority over any medical marijuana production facility proposed for creation in the town, via the direct control district process within the Municipal Government Act.
Administration considered integrating a definition and regulations around medical marijuana into Land Use Bylaw 4-2006 as proactive in allowing the town to be prepared should it receive an application for a medical marijuana production facility in future. 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.
Consideration of Bylaw 9-2014 by town council has focused the attention of provincial broadcast media on the issue in recent weeks, despite the fact no facility has currently been proposed for the community.
In a radio interview last week with CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener, Coun. Sparks expressed his opinion that should interest in a medical marijuana production facility exist in future, it should not be authorized within the boundaries of the municipality.
While there was no discussion by town council on the merits of Bylaw 9-2014 prior to third reading, the scrutiny of media attention on the issue was raised by councillors.
“I don’t mind representing the Town of Taber in something like this,” said Coun. Sparks. “Reporters come and try to put you on the spot, and try to get you to say things that you don’t mean or want to say, but it was a learning experience for me, and I appreciate the opportunity to do this on behalf of the Town of Taber. I tried my best not to voice my personal opinion too sternly, because I don’t want anyone in Canada to think that the Town of Taber isn’t open for business, regardless of what it is. So I tried to portray that to the best of my ability.”
Mayor Henk De Vlieger appeared to have a less than glowing opinion of provincial media in referencing Coun. Sparks’ interview with CBC Radio.
“I think you did an excellent job. I listened to it, and I think you represented the town very well. It’s tough — they try to push you into a corner and say something you didn’t really want to say.”
A public hearing on Bylaw 9-2014 was held prior to the regular council meeting on Aug. 18. There were no written or oral submissions.