With medical marijuana entrepreneurs sniffing around Clearwater County, the municipality made sure it was ready.
Council recently passed bylaw amendments laying out where cannabis production facilities could be located.
Clearwater County will restrict the facilities to business parks and industrial-zoned areas, a recognition that cannabis production is not your usual agricultural endeavour.
Red Deer County took a similar approach last year after a proposed medical marijuana facility created a stir in the Pine Lake area, where residents banded together to stop it.
“We’ve actually had a lot of questions about where we were going to be allowing it,” said Clearwater County planner Dustin Bisson. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries out in this area from different producers.”
A public hearing on the bylaw changes held last week was well attended with about two dozen people turning out.
Some of those attending raised concerns the county bylaw changes did not differentiate between industrial hemp production and cannabis production.
The county reassured them the bylaw’s definition of cannabis excluded industrial hemp, which can be used to make paper, textiles, rope or construction materials. Grain from industrial hemp can go into food products, cosmetics, plastics and fuel.
“The other main concern was regarding the production of personal marijuana,” Bisson said. “That was a concern for some residents that we were going to be restricting them, which wasn’t the case.”
In a nod to those concerns, council opted to exclude legal personal production from its cannabis production definitions, although that will be regulated by the federal government anyway.
Another change made by council was to broaden the scope of the bylaw from medical marijuana production facilities to cannabis production facilities.
Bisson said those in favour of the county’s bylaw changes shared the view cannabis production should not be treated the same as other agricultural operations.
“It’s similar,” some agreed, “but for the most part it’s different enough to be separated.”
All marijuana applications will be considered discretionary, meaning they must get approval from the county’s municipal planning commission.
The county’s work on the marijuana front is not over. Planning staff will now craft bylaw changes to address retail marijuana sales. That is expected to come back to council later in the year.