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New zone created for medical pot growers
A zoning change that would specify where medical marijuana could be grown in the District of Kent sparked a debate among councillors on Tuesday night, and ended in a divided vote.
In the end, bylaw 1501 was adopted, setting out specific rules for medical marijuana growers who would want to grow here by creating a special industrial zone. However, Councillors Duane Post and Holger Schwichtenberg voted against the third reading and adoption. Both asserted that the issue should be discussed by the Kent Agricultural Advisory Committee before coming up for adoption.
They both stated that it was an agricultural issue, and Schwichtenberg argued that council should not "make unilateral decisions" on what is and isn't presented to the KAAC. He said he wasn't voting against it because he doesn't agree with it, just that he doesn't agree with it not being sent to the KAAC. Both Schwichtenberg and Post sit on the KAAC. If that committee were to discuss the bylaw and present a report to council, it would only be in an advisory role.
Mayor John Van Laerhoven pressed ahead with the bylaw, with the support of Councillors Lorne Fisher and Darcy Striker.
"We need to act now in the best interest of the community," Van Laerhoven said. "It will ultimately go back to council and we'll make the decision then, or we can do it now. There are enough good reasons to create a special industrial zone. We need to protect our citizens and the future of the community."
The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations will be repealed in March, 2014 and this month, Health Canada stops accepting applications for new personal and designated production licences.
Next April, all personal medical marijuana operations will be considered illegal. The only legal means will be through an authorized licensed producer. Communities are scrambling to come up with bylaws to enforce where the ensuing "Walmart-sized" grow ops will be set up, said Darcey Kohuch, Kent's planning and development services manager.
"Do we want 100,000 square foot grow ops on our agricultural land?" Kohuch asked, somewhat rhetorically. "Because that's what these are. These are Walmarts, and who wants to live beside that."
With a special zone set aside for grow ops, growers will have a building process to go through that would include public hearings.
Chilliwack and Abbotsford have set up bylaws already, Kohuch stated, pushing Valley growers to further reaches such as Agassiz.
Under the new regulation, no marijuana production will be allowed in residential homes. However, the policing will be left up to municipalities.