Red Deer County wants to keep medical marijuana facilities out of the countryside.
Under bylaw changes passed unanimously by council on Tuesday, medical marijuana production facilities will only be considered a permitted use in medium industrial districts. They would also be allowed as a discretionary use — requiring council’s approval — in a business service industrial district.
In the last year, medical marijuana has become a hot topic in the county, which has seen three applications for medical marijuana facilities. All were turned down with significant local opposition.
How to deal with the brave new world of medical marijuana became a challenging issue for planners and council.
Medical marijuana production was initially considered the same as other value-added agriculture industries, such as greenhouses.
However, residents clearly saw medical marijuana facilities in a much different light. Security, smell, impact on property values and the possibility marijuana operations might attract crime were all raised in public forums.
Mayor Jim Wood said the county recognized the need to put medical marijuana facilities in appropriate locations where adequate security was available.
“I think what we’re trying to do is make sure these facilities are located in the best place we can place them,” he said.
Coun. Christine Moore shared a similar view.
“As council, we have to make sure if this is going to happen it has to happen in the right place.”
Medical marijuana facilities are regulated by the federal government, which has strict conditions related to security, smell and other issues likely to cause neighbourhood concerns.
Coun. Philip Massier noted some have moral problems with medical marijuana. However, that is not a debate for council, he said.
“It’s our job to decide where it fits into the community.”
Several people addressed council, raising concerns about medical marijuana facilities.
Glenellen Community Centre president Suzanne Hawkes, who was among many who opposed a planned medical marijuana facility near Pine Lake, agreed with council’s intention to keep medical marijuana facilities in industrial and business areas.
“This appears to me to be an excellent location for these services,” she told council.