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Nanaimo council considers closing marijuana zoning loophole

The blanket right of medical marijuana operators to grow on industrial land could go up in smoke, thanks to a potential tax loophole.

Nanaimo city officials are thinking twice about allowing licensed medical marijuana producers to grow pot in heavy industrial areas like Duke Point, after learning they could lose significant tax revenue.

According to the City of Nanaimo, B.C. Assessment has indicated the production of medical marijuana could be an agricultural use, allowing companies to apply for farm status and lower taxes despite operating from industrial land.

It has Nanaimo city council concerned about tax revenue losses and the potential to erode an already-limited industrial tax base.

At last night’s council meeting, councillors were set to consider nixing marijuana production as a permitted use within the I4 zone, and instead making  production “site specific” to property already slated for medical pot grown by company Lafitte Ventures.

The move would give new marijuana producers the option to establish in rural residential areas or rezone industrial land, according to city officials, who add that the latter would allow council to place tax-related restrictions on companies.

“I don’t think it would deter the prospects or the potential ... it simply means we have the opportunity to create the criteria on a one-off basis,” said acting mayor Bill Bestwick.

“I think potentially it’s a very controversial topic that we would prefer to be able to have more control of as opposed to making it a wide-open, blanket policy to access ... a site for construction.”

But Bill McKay isn’t convinced striking medical marijuana from heavy industrial zoning is a good idea.  While the city could lose “extremely valuable” industrial property if B.C. Assessment allows companies to apply for farm status, he also doesn’t want to see the companies relocate to residential areas.

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