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City restricts pot on industrial land

The city is enabling Lafitte Ventures to proceed with its marijuana grow facillity at Duke Point. - File photo
The city is enabling Lafitte Ventures to proceed with its marijuana grow facillity at Duke Point.
— image credit: File photo

The city will get its taxes and Lafitte Ventures gets a step closer to growing medical marijuana on industrial land.

Nanaimo city council voted Monday to amend a zoning bylaw to prohibit medical marijuana growers from operating on industrial land, while allowing Lafitte Ventures to proceed with plans to establish a medical marijuana growing operation from an industrial building at 1100 Maughan Rd. in the Duke Point Industrial Park.

Medical marijuana production is categorized by the province as an agricultural activity, so a primary purpose of the bylaw is to prevent growers from claiming farm status and tax exemptions as agricultural producers while operating from properties zoned industrial.

The bylaw removes marijuana as a permitted use on industrial-zoned site in Nanaimo, giving the city the opportunity to consider each potential future venture on a case-by-case basis.

Lafitte has an agreement with the city in place that it will not seek an agricultural tax exemption.

Bill McKay, the only councillor to vote against the motion, cited security and safety concerns over potential criminal activity, such as break ins and theft attempts that could arise from an industrial marijuana growing operation.

McKay is concerned future medical marijuana production operations could apply to move into Agricultural Land Reserve properties near communities, avoid paying industrial taxes and potentially drag in crime, security and societal issues that he said surround those operations. He recommended a better long-term solution would be to join with other municipalities to petition the province to re-categorize such operations as industrial rather than agricultural.

“Our big challenge is that we somehow have to convince the province that this is not growing tomatoes, this is not mushrooms, this is not growing rosehips for vitamin C,” McKay said during the council meeting. “This is a very, very dangerous product relative to societal issues, relative to security of sites ... I really believe that this is an industrial product and it should be grown and harvested and manufactured and shipped on industrial property.”

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan countered that there is no time to pursue that course of action given that Lafitte Ventures wants to begin operations.

Lafitte aims to plant a crop in February to have it ready to ship to patients when Health Canada’s new medical marijuana regulations come into effect in April.

“I’ve got to say I have some concerns about it, too, but we’re dealing with a very site-specific issue at 1100 Maughan Rd., so I don’t know that we have the luxury of saying, ‘Well, let’s just put everything on hold until the province looks at it again,” Ruttan said.

To read a related editorial, please click here.

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