By Tina Comeau
Should the town of Yarmouth decide it wants to interest a company in locating a medical marijuana facility in Yarmouth, it doesn’t want to see things go up in smoke because its bylaws don’t address where such a facility could be located.
And so a public hearing is taking place Thursday, Aug. 14, to explore the issue of amending the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw to address where in the town such a facility could be located. The hearing starts at 7 p.m. at the town hall.
The town’s planning advisory committee (PAC) is recommending that town council consider an amendment to only allow the location of medical marijuana facilities in general industrial, waterfront industrial and commercial industrial zones (the latter of which would exclude the Forest Street industrial park area).
“We have not been contacted by any companies, but council has expressed interest in attracting a company in the industry to consider Yarmouth. Up until now, we have had no specific policy on where such facilities could locate,” explains town CAO Jeff Gushue. “Creating this bylaw will ensure that we are clear on where we would allow such a facility, and if a company is interested, they could apply for a development permit without first going through the six-month process to amend the strategy.”
The federal government, through Health Canada, has changed the rules respecting medical marijuana growing facilities. The new regulations prohibit the establishment of such facilities in a residence, saying instead they have to be commercial production facilities operated by licensed producers. (You can click here for info from Health Canada about medical marijuana and the Marijuana Medical Access Program.)
A few months ago Health Canada said it was swamped with applications from companies seeking licences to grow medical marijuana.
While the department was sorting through around 150 applications last September, by June the number of applications had swelled to around 860.
One Nova Scotia community that is on the medical marijuana radar is Stellarton, Pictou County, where Toronto-based Vida Cannibas has been looking to set up a growing, processing and shipping facility.
A February 2014 report from the town of Yarmouth’s PAC notes that in the local context, a medical marijuana facility would be classified as agricultural use and as such would be permitted in the town’s residential holding zone. But due to the proximity of residential uses, schools, playgrounds and other community facilities, “this could result in a land use conflict,” the report notes – hence the recommended amendment to spell out where such facilities could be located.
The Forest Street industrial park area would be excluded as a possible location for a medical marijuana facility since, the PAC report notes, it is felt the inclusion of such a use so close to the Yarmouth high school is not appropriate.
Any medical marijuana operation in the town would have to be housed within a wholly enclosed building and, states the amendments, open storage and outdoor displays associated with a medical marijuana facility would be prohibited. The growing, processing and distribution would fall under federal regulations.
As with any new type of industry coming into an area, the town of Yarmouth sees the potential for jobs with this type of facility.