North Cowichan is considering allowing smaller marijuana production facilities to set up in some of its commercial areas.
“Micro-cannabis” production facilities are only allowed up to 200 square metres of space for production, much smaller than standard and much larger production operations which are typically around 14,000 square metres.
At the council meeting on March 6, staff were instructed to bring forward a more detailed report and develop a draft zoning amendment for council to consider to allow micro-cannabis production facilities on properties zoned C3, which allows for such other uses as automotive repair shops, major equipment repair operations and service stations.
Coun. Tek Manhas said he attended a meeting on March 1, co-hosted by the Cascadia Agricultural Co-Op Association and Grow Tech Labs, to help create a small cannabis producers and processors co-operative in B.C.
“More than 100 people attended the meeting, so there is a huge interest in [smaller marijuana-producing facilities] locally,” he said.
In a report to council, North Cowichan community planner Mairi Bosomworth said MCPFs are intended to make obtaining a licence more accessible to small-scale, local businesses as standard licences are mainly intended for much larger operations, with higher barriers to entry.
“These standard licensed facilities are typically owned by corporations headquartered outside the municipality, province, or even country,” Bosomworth said.
“Supplementary benefits to zoning for micro-cannabis facilities include both sales and income tax revenue, the creation of local jobs and reducing illicit pot producers which, in turn, reduces the need for police and enforcement services.”
Since the legalization of recreational pot across Canada last October, the municipality has seen an influx of inquiries related to establishing non-medical pot production facilities.
Council gave the first two readings in January to a bylaw amendment that would allow recreational pot production in North Cowichan’s industrial zones for the first time.
There are currently two medical marijuana production facilities operating in industrial-zoned areas of North Cowichan.
Bosomworth said, given that the federal and provincial governments have developed stringent licensing requirements, it’s unlikely that MCPFs will be more disruptive than uses currently permitted in commercial areas zoned C3.
“These requirements have been amended since the legalization of marijuana in consideration of the sensitivities and perceived implications related to this market,” she said.
“The goal of these requirements is to have minimal impacts and nuisances to adjacent properties, and the community as a whole.”
Bosomworth said the municipality has received inquiries from prospective applicants for properties zoned both industrial and commercial to grow marijuana, with more of these inquiries in industrial areas.
“However, it is difficult to predict the interest in C3 properties,” she said.