Medical marijuana facility gets a second chance

Call it a second chance at giving a medical marijuana facility in a Red Deer industrial park a first chance.

Call it a second chance at giving a medical marijuana facility in a Red Deer industrial park a first chance.

After city council considered the facility proposed by MedCan Solutions Inc. and rejected it on July 4, the matter returned on Monday for a new vote. This time council supported allowing the facility, at least for a first reading.

On July 4, council was split 4-4 and the land-use bylaw amendment allowing the facility failed, Mayor Tara Veer recused herself from the vote.

Then on Monday, three councillors who had voted against the amendment Buck Buchanan, Frank Wong and Ken Johnston reversed course.

They joined with Paul Harris and Diane Wyntjes to support first reading of the amendment. Councillors Tanya Handley, Lawrence Lee and Lynne Mulder were absent.

Buchanan, Wong and Johnston indicated they had varying degrees of concerns with the proposed medical marijuana facility, but said they want to hear what the public had to say about it.

For Wendy Konschuk and Lisa Davidson, co-founders and directors of MedCan Solutions Inc., the rejection, second chance and ultimate first approval has been a roller-coaster for the past six weeks.

“We were thrilled to get an opportunity to come back and revisit this,” said Konschuk. “It was disappointing. We do want to work here and we want to be here in Red Deer. We’re happy to be back.”

There are several hurdles ahead for the company, including the public hearing and getting potential neighbours in Burnt Lake Industrial Park on board.

Among the issues that remain for the potential facility include the odour, safety and the zoning issue. Several neighbours voiced concerns over the location of the facility in area zoned as I1, intended for business industrial use. The City has included medical marijuana facilities as a potential use in I2, heavy industrial.

“If they move 3/4 of a mile to the north then they are in an I2 zone and then there’s no discussion at all,” said Wong. “For that I don’t really support it.

“I might support it for the first reading, but I don’t necessarily support it for the public hearings.”

Johnston had asked what comparable communities had done. Administration came back with an example out of Smith Falls, Ont. where a facility took over the former Hershey factory in town. The medical marijuana facility there is adjacent to a residential neighbourhood and has had success, with no opposition or complaints.

A former RCMP member and owner of X-Cops Inc., a security services company, Buchanan was concerned with the safety and security issues the facility may present.

“Security isn’t an issue,” said Konschuk. “The security system is in the millions of dollars and regulated by Health Canada. If anything the community will be happy to hear we have 24-hour surveillance, 24-hour manned security. In fact, (neighbouring) businesses will be safer because we are there.”

City administration compared the security to a casino or bank. Konschuk the building will also have a solid perimeter security including two fences and a concrete barrier to prevent vehicles from breaking through the fences.

Outside of security issues, odour was also a consistent issue potential neighbours raised to council. Konschuk said they plan on going over and above what Health Canada requires with both a High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance and carbon filter installed, the federal government only requires the HEPA filter.

“It’s literally a zero-odour and it’s just taking it to a negative,” said Konschuk.

Harris brought the motion forward for council to reconsider their initial rejection of the amendment. He touted the economic aspects and potential job creation.

“It will be an interesting meeting and I’m going in with curiosity and an open mind.”

Now that the motion has passed first reading, it is set to return to council on Sept. 12 for a public hearing and second and third reading of the amendment.

If approved, Konschuk said it could take up to another two years to get all the proper permits from the federal government.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com