Margaret Woods (left) speaks at a public meeting on proposed medical-marijuana production zoning for White Rock

Mixed reaction over medical-marijuana zoning proposed for White Rock

Lack of zoning has resulted in 52 unrecorded grow-ops, White Rock staff say

White Rock is not suited for commercial medicinal-marijuana grow-ops, but the city needs zoning that addresses the facilities nonetheless, officials say.

In explaining proposed zoning to attendees of a public meeting Tuesday, director of development services Paul Stanton said it will give the city – and residents – a much-needed process to deal with such requests, should any crop up.

The option has not existed to date, Stanton noted, and it has resulted in 52 medicinal-marijuana operations running without city knowledge, some spurring complaints from residents who became unwitting neighbours.

“We’re following legal advice… so the municipality is positioned to deal with a request,” Stanton said. “I really think this is a step in the right direction.”

The move is in anticipation of new federal regulations around the operations that are slated to kick in April 1. They are to shift the medicinal-marijuana program to a system of regulated commercial growers who will supply authorized users; at the same time, all current licenses to possess or produce pot will expire.

Opponents say the changes will harm those who rely on the drug, by restricting its availability and raising prices. They’re calling for a program unique to B.C.

Tuesday, proponents for such a program asked White Rock to not enact zoning specific to the operations, but direct efforts at lobbying for provincial change.

“We’re asking the cities to do nothing… to be compassionate and find another way,” said local resident Joy Davies, of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners.

“Those who will be harmed have never been consulted.”

About a dozen people attended, including former city councillors Margaret Woods, Ken Jones and Stewart Peddemors.

Woods said she is not in favour of “any kind of marijuana grow-ops – legal or illegal.” She said a zone would lead to “more and more money and trouble for the people that live in White Rock.”

Jones agreed: “If you set a precedence of a facility, people will find a way to try to use it. You’re putting the doormat out for people to come here with their proposals.”

Peddemors said he supports the zoning, as it would likely never be used for a new operation, but would eliminate existing “legal, non-conforming” operations.

CMCP member Steve Finlay said it doesn’t make any more sense for White Rock to have the zoning than it does to create specific zoning for growing cucumbers.

A report on the zoning amendment is expected to come to the city’s land-use committee Jan. 13.

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