Medicinal grow-ops pose a challenge

Local officials are scrambling over the potential management of industrial marijuana planations.

Local officials are scrambling over the potential management of industrial marijuana planations.

The Regional District of North Okanagan is attempting to understand its role under proposed federal rules that would see medicinal marijuana operations shift from homes to commercial settings in 2014.

“These aren’t just little fields of green plants. We’re looking at how to manage the impact,” Rob Smailes, general manager of planning and building, told electoral area directors Thursday.

“A lot of people are scratching their heads about this. We are responsible for regulating  land use and buildings and this is being dropped right down in the middle of that.”

B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission has indicated that such operations will be considered a farm use within the Agricultural Land Reserve. Outside of the ALR, they will have to be in industrial zones.

Smailes believes the regional district may have to reconsider what is permitted in terms of farm buildings as marijuana plantations may include concrete or brick structures.

“There will be strict security requirements and they will have to notify local government, the RCMP and the fire departments about their locations whereas they didn’t have to do that before,” he said.

RDNO staff continue to review the federal policy and the implications for planning issues in the five electoral areas.

“We have some already and we’re getting complaints about things like odour,” said Smailes.

The federal government announced a new strategy for medicinal marijuana in June.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” said Leona Aglukkaq, health minister.

“These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

Health Canada reports that the number of people authorized to grow medicinal marijuana in the country has gone from 500 to 30,000 since 2001.

“This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” states a Health Canada release.

“Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”