MediGreen Wellness Products is poised to build the first medical marijuana production facility in Chilliwack.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to rezone property at 8300 Aitken Road to M6 special industrial to permit the use.
First up to the microphone at the public hearing was resident Darrell Fergason, who urged council not to let Chilliwack become known for growing medical marijuana. He said council should use every “loophole” to stop it.
“What do we want Chilliwack to be known for?” he asked. “Because the issue of medical marijuana is not settled.”
He questioned the MediGreen company’s credentials, and that of its acting CEO, Soheil Samimi.
“My objection is why have this in Chilliwack at all?” Fergason asked, adding later they should let cities like Langley have it. “I don’t think it’s a good business for Chilliwack.”
Mayor Sharon Gaetz reminded the speaker that federally licensed manufacturing of medical marijuana was an approved land use by the province, and they could not prohibit it outright.
“So while many of us do prefer corn, it is legal right now if they have a licence to grow by Health Canada,” Gaetz said.
“And in the future we will see more, sadly, grown on our precious farmland. So we hear what you are saying, but the reality is that council cannot overrule legislation of higher levels of government.”
The zoning changes will see part of the property rezoned to M6 ‘special industry’ from M5 ‘industrial salvage’, but approval by council is being held at third reading, pending registration of a restrictive covenant.
Mayor Gaetz said city officials worked closely with the applicants, who opted to go with the M6 zoning, which gives the city “far more control” than it would have had otherwise, with the smell-controlling conditions of the covenant.
Council has “not been sitting idle” as B.C. has been preparing for legalization, the mayor said, and has been watching industry developments. The strong odour of flowering marijuana venting in neighbourhoods, and gang infiltration of the industry have been major concerns of Chilliwack, she underlined.
“For the many neighbours who cannot stand the smell, whether philosophically opposed to marijuana or not, this seemed to be a better way to control the industry,” Gaetz said about the special industrial zoning.
Coun. Chris Kloot, who chairs the Chilliwack Agricultural Advisory Committee, said the industrial zone was preferable to agricultural land being used.
“Odour is a big issue,” Kloot said, adding that at least with the covenant in place there are “checks and balances” to control odour with activated charcoal filters and scrubbers that remove particulate matter from the exhaust.
“At least it’s something,” he said.
Resident Fred Peterson brought up “housekeeping” issues, as well as setback and siting concerns. He even questioned if the rezoning sign was in fact standing, and tried to get the public hearing shut down due to what he alleged were hearing requirements that had not been met.
But Mayor Gaetz told Peterson he did not have the authority to “dismiss” the rezoning application and the hearing.
“That won’t be happening,” she told him, and ruled that if any of the requirements were deemed to be deficient upon review, she would ensure they recalled a hearing.
Horticulture business owner Gary Moran said he was not opposed to medical marijuana production.
“Chilliwack was full of wonderful odours,” Moran noted. They’d get used to the smell, he said, adding he wanted folks to know they had the opportunity with the Minister of Agriculture’s online survey on how to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve, to chime in with “where they should allow marijuana” to be grown.
The 2.450-square metre medical marijuana production facility, is expected to be licensed shortly under the Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) at the federal level.
Air quality considerations and getting a Good Neighbour Agreement signed were high on council’s list of concerns, and make up part of the covenant.
MediGreen CEO Soheil Samimi said he was happy to have an opportunity to share their vision and address concerns from citizens at the public hearing.
“This is a project we are passionate about,” Samimi told council, acknowledging that a medical cannabis growing facility is a “hot topic” on which many people have strong opinions.