Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jun 2014
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Molly Hayes
Page: A4
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Planning Committee Moves Forward With Zoning Regulations for 
Marijuana Production

The city is blazing ahead with plans to allow medical marijuana 
growers to set up production in industrial Hamilton.

The planning committee voted Tuesday to move forward with 
recommendations to change zoning rules on where medical marijuana can 
be grown and harvested.

The federal government has specified that growers must comply with 
local bylaws, but under Hamilton's previous rules, "growing" of any 
sort was allowed only in agricultural zones.

Now, the city has decided medical marijuana growers will be able to 
grow in former industrial facilities.

"These should be funnelled as much as possible into the lower city. 
These are factories, not farms," Councillor Brad Clark said Tuesday.

Councillor Chad Collins - one of the early advocates for 
industrializing pot production - says the new zoning rules provide an 
opportunity to turn vacant brownfields into greenfields.

"It's about turning underutilized urban industrial lands into 
tax-producing, employment-generating opportunities," Collins said 
after the meeting.

As of April 1, medical marijuana users are required to buy cannabis 
exclusively from security-conscious, indoor commercial operations 
licensed by Health Canada.

So far, the city has received 17 letters of intent from potential 
investors. Eight of those propose rural grow-op locations, and five 
are urban - those 13 will move forward in the application process. 
The remaining four, proposed for ineligible "commercial" zones, will not.

One recommendation tabled Tuesday concerned size limitations for 
rural facilities to ensure open farmland does not become 
"building-heavy," said Joanne Hickey-Evans, the city's manager of 
policy planning and zoning bylaw reform.

Staff proposed a 500-square metre cap on processing facilities - a 
restriction some councillors are concerned might inhibit farmers and 
new investors from taking advantage of the $1.3-billion industry.

"I don't want to put up indefensible barriers that are going to 
prevent businesses from coming here," Clark said.

Staff will look at revamping that recommendation, Hickey-Evans said. 
"It's been a lot of work and it was a very quick turnaround time that 
we've tried to deal with this issue."

Collins, too, said municipalities across the country have been 
scrambling to comply with the new rules as potential growers come forward.

Ottawa, for example, has settled on a default agricultural definition 
but has made special provisions for growers in some industrial areas.

In the Ottawa Valley town of Smiths Falls, a licensed grower is 
breathing new life into a massive abandoned chocolate factory.

Locally, Collins said "we have yet to establish the rules and there's 
a line up around the block, so to speak."

If the recommendations are passed by council next Wednesday, the 
urban bylaw will have a 35-day appeal period.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom