Take sober look at pot zoning

A U.S.-based company wants the city to rezone land in Duke Point so it can open its first Canadian medical marijuana production facility

Taking a sobering look at rezoning for a medical marijuana operation was a responsible move by Nanaimo city council.

Nanaimo heard this week that Privateer Holdings and its Canadian company Lafitte Ventures Ltd., want a Duke Point property rezoned to I4, which is the only kind of zoning that permits sanctioned medical marijuana operations.

But there are still unanswered questions about whether the company will be able to apply for agriculture status with B.C. Assessment and if that potential loophole can be closed by the City of Nanaimo. The designation would allow the company to pay significantly lower taxes than its neighbours in the Duke Point industrial park. That doesn’t seem like a good deal for Nanaimo.

Industrial medical marijuana operations are just starting in this country as a result of new Health Canada regulations, but it stands to reason the industry could become big business. If companies like Lafitte Ventures believe Nanaimo’s industrial parks are ideal locations to put these new operations, they should pay a fair share of the taxes.

This company is the first operation to apply to set up within Nanaimo’s boundaries and has indicated it’s interested in signing a deal never to apply for agriculture status, but the city hasn’t yet been able to find a way to create a legal contract. Unless the city has long-term guarantees the company won’t be taxed as agriculture, it would seem rezoning would set a worrisome precedent for other medical marijuana producers looking to set up within an industrial park.

The medical marijuana industry will no doubt present opportunities to the community, adding to the diversity of the local economy and new jobs. But the last thing we need is a shrinking industrial tax base. The city is right to proceed with caution.