EDITORS NOTE: On Monday, Feb. 3 (after press time) North Saanich council actually voted to prohibit medical marijuana growing facilities for six months.
North Saanich councillors have taken a step back from fear and have decided to allow the legal production of medical marijuana on local agricultural land.
Deemed a legitimate agricultural product by the federal government, which controls the medical marijuana program through Health Canada, a majority of council has pulled back from a plan to prohibit its production within their boundaries. As long as that majority holds in a ratification vote this week, at least one application for such a facility will proceed to the approvals process with the federal government.
The decision was hashed out at council’s committee of the whole meeting late last month. Those speaking for prohibition resorted to fears that can only be associated to illegal grow-ops — crime, smell, pollution and worse.
One can only presume that police forces in the region will continue to expose such illegal activity, as they have been doing for a long time.
Elsewhere, producers have licence via Ottawa to produce marijuana for medical use. It will be regulated by Health Canada and as a legitimate agricultural activity, it will have to comply with rules governing its environmental impact. As for the smell, we’ve seen in Central Saanich how operations with rank odour are treated by local government and regulatory agencies.
A visible and public facility set up to grow medical marijuana should not carry with it the stench of illegal grow-ops. Comparing them in such a manner is not productive.
North Saanich council is giving the operators of a proposed medical marijuana site along McTavish Road the benefit of the doubt. They’ve seen similar projects take shape in neighbouring communities. While secure, cinder-block buildings might not be the prettiest of farm structures, they do give some land owners a new way to use their property, while helping supply a national health care program.
Whether the medical marijuana program lasts — and whether the producer is up to the challenge — is another matter. In the meantime, North Saanich is keeping an open mind to a different kind of agricultural activity.