Mountain View County restricts sites for medical marijuana

Medical marijuana crops won’t be sprouting up on Mountain View County farms after council recently approved bylaw changes.

Medical marijuana crops won’t be sprouting up on Mountain View County farms after council recently approved bylaw changes.

The municipality was prompted to review its Land Use Bylaw when a proposed development in a rural area north of Cremona by a medical marijuana grower ignited controversy.

A number of rural residents were upset when a building permit was issued to the company, Releaf Inc., for a medical marijuana growing facility. Under the county’s existing Land Use Bylaw, the company was not required to apply for a development permit because a facility for horticultural use — which includes intensively cultivated plants for medicinal purposes — is considered a permitted use.

The bylaw was silent on medical marijuana specifically.

Council acknowledged residents’ concerns that the process didn’t require a public hearing. Some property owners also said a medical marijuana operation could hurt surrounding property values and raises security issues that don’t exist with typical greenhouses.

In response to the public outcry, Mountain View County passed amendments to its bylaws earlier this month to restrict future medical marijuana facilities to business parks or heavy industrial sites. A number of regulations apply to deal with safety and risk issues.

The new county rules don’t apply to Releaf’s application.

Mountain View Coun. Al Kemmere said the changes reflect the majority of feedback received from residents about how to deal with future medical marijuana applications.

Councillors also saw the value in limiting the operations to easily accessible and visible sites apart from residential areas and “not kind of hidden out in the back 40.”

Health Canada must approve any medical marijuana facility licence, which carries an extensive list of requirements.

The federal government announced that starting on April 1, only commercial-sized companies will be able to produce and distribute the plants to people with valid prescriptions.

Rocky View County, in the Calgary area, also recently updated is bylaws after a landowner began converting a decommissioned greenhouse for medical marijuana use.

Under Rocky View’s new bylaw, medical marijuana facilities are restricted to business and industrial areas and their property line must be at least 400 metres from the boundary of any school or residential area.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com