Sweeping changes are coming to the marijuana industry next spring and the City of Nanaimo is ready.
The city has made the necessary changes to accommodate a move by Health Canada to hand off medical marijuana distribution to licensed providers by April 1, 2014.
Then-Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq made the announcement in June.
Nanaimo has completed zoning bylaw amendments to take advantage of the new medical marijuana regime.
Growing operations will thus be limited to I4 industrial areas, like Duke Point, and AR1 and AR2 agricultural residential zones. The changes have the city tickled green with anticipation that growers will face increased regulation.
"The changes are very positive from a city perspective," said Nanaimo bylaws manager Randy Churchill.
Not only will grow-ops be limited to a handful of areas in the city, they will be subject to increased scrutiny.
Facilities will have to meet the city's building codes - a change, it is hoped, will lead to increased security.
The days of the legal residential grow operation could be numbered.
"There has to be a business licence," Churchill explained. "It's not different than our current process (for other businesses) at all."
No applications have come forward yet but there have been some expressions of interest.
The city can have a say in certain aspects of the process, like zoning bylaws. Other aspects include building codes and fire safety, in addition to what regulations may come from Health Canada.
While the changes are being applauded by some, medical marijuana activists are less than happy.
Glenda Allard Barr worried that the new Health Canada regime could mean higher prices
for medicinal marijuana users, especially low-income disability collectors who use cannabis therapeutically.
"Of course there's profit involved in this. This is a commercial model," she said. "I think the home growing could have been better supervised. There was supposed to be provision for inspections."
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