© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Coun. Rob Lantz, centre, chairman of planning, talks before council's regular public monthly meeting Monday night with Couns. Melissa Hilton and Jason Coady.
City council in Charlottetown has paved the way for the province's first medical marijuana production facility.
By a vote of 8-2 at Monday night's regular public monthly meeting, council has agreed to amend the city's zoning and development bylaw by adding the definition for 'medical marijuana production facility'.
Couns. Mitchell Tweel and Danny Redmond were the two naysayers.
Council is also restricting where such a facility can be built. Those areas include the West Royalty Industrial Park, some light industrial areas located north of the city's bypass highway and the bio-commons park, although the city would likely have to amend its development agreement with the latter before going ahead.
The city's hand has essentially been forced. Under new federal legislation, large indoor marijuana farms certified by the RCMP and health inspectors, will be allowed to produce, package and distribute a range of standardized weed, all of it sold for whatever price the market will bear.
Coun. Rob Lantz, chairman of planning, said had council not voted in favour of the resolution such a production facility would have been allowed, by federal law, to build anywhere.
"These are legal, federally regulated facilities. We cannot prohibit them so what council did tonight was restrict them to some very small areas of the city,'' Lantz said. "A vote against this resolution is essentially a vote for the status quo which is to keep these unregulated which means they could be built essentially anywhere so council did the responsible thing, thankfully.''
Tweel said no one at a recent public meeting on the issue spoke in favour of a medical marijuana facility.
"Three speakers got up to the podium and not one spoke in favour so the question is why the urgency? Why the rush?'' Tweel said. "Have we heard from the P.E.I. Medical Society? Have we heard from the RCMP? Have we heard from the Charlottetown police department? I haven't heard anyone speak in favour.''
Tweel dismisses federal legislation talk, pointing to government's moves to eliminate door-to-door postal delivery, cutting Veterans Affairs Canada jobs and closing district offices as proof it doesn't always make good decisions.
Lantz said there is nothing the city can do to block them.
"I am advised that we cannot legally prohibit a legal facility of any kind, no more than we can prohibit dry cleaners from being in the city. We have the ability and probably the obligation, I would say, to regulate where they could go.''
Lantz anticipates there is a developer that will be coming to the city with an application to build one.
"There is somebody coming to us with an application. We will see it and we'll have to deal with it. in the absence of what we did here tonight we would have no control over where it would go.''
Lantz said the issue was about zoning and not about debating the merits of marijuana use.
"I think some people took advantage of the subject matter of what happens at these facilities and tried to turn it into something it's not.''
Lantz said other municipalities around the region are doing the same thing Charlottetown did and regulating where they can go. There's only a handful operating right now in Canada but that is going to change.
"I prefer this approach . . . and I think law enforcement officials would tell you the same thing. The product from these facilities is more likely to get in the hands and stay in the hands of the people who legitimately need it.
"I think there have been concerns in the past, and I've heard this rationale for the federal government's decision to go this way . . . the licensing system they used before for individuals, allowing them to grow it in their own homes, some of this stuff was finding its way onto the black market so if the proliferation of marijuana is a concern then I think that the federal government is probably doing the right thing by consolidating the production and distribution into these larger facilities that are really tightly regulated.''
The issue needs final approval from the province, a process likely to take two to four weeks.