Over the past 12 months, the City of Prince Rupert has been planning, developing and implementing policy to govern recreational cannabis sales.
While this process is well under way, with at least two prospective cannabis stores in the process of obtaining a licence, there are other entrepreneurs asking the city to consider another aspect of the cannabis business — medicinal marijuana.
Joe Lewis, a Prince Rupert resident and part-owner of cannabis information co-op Mr. Nice Guys, wants to obtain a micro-cultivation licence that would allow him to grow cannabis commercially for medical sale.
The micro-cultivation licence permits approximately 2,152 square feet of total canopy space for cannabis cultivation, allowing smaller scale “craft” growers to get their foot in the door.
In addition to the micro-cultivation licence, Lewis hopes to open a medical dispensary in the city. Lewis said that while most of the publicity for cannabis sales is on the recreational side, there are many individuals who would benefit from medical cannabis.
“We’re trying to connect people with a resource that’s unavailable right now,” Lewis said.
No policy in place
The process for becoming a licenced cannabis retailer is governed provincially, however commercial production falls under the purview of the federal government.
An individual who wants to grow commercially — either with a micro-cultivation facility or a larger operation — must first apply to the Ministry of Health, which has its own processes, requirements and guidelines for granting a licence.
Among those requirements are that the individual applying for a micro-cultivation licence has site ownership, site personnel and physical security. That individual also has to make sure they are compliant with whatever policy and zoning a municipality has established with regard to commercial growing.
There is currently only space zoned in Prince Rupert for the recreational sale of cannabis, not commercial cultivation.
There is also no policy in place in the city to address the issue of commercial growers, with city administration saying anyone interested in commercial growing would have to apply for a zoning amendment.
City planner Zeno Krekic briefly addressed this subject during the Nov. 13 public information session about cannabis that was held at Coast Mountain College.
Krekic said that prospective commercial growers would be considered individually on a case-by-case basis.
“The commercial proposals we would consider at the time they’re proposed,” he said. “They definitely would not be considered in residential areas, they definitely would not be considered in commercial areas, but of course an industrial area is something that may have potential.”
Lewis was present at the city’s committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 28 where he made the case for commercial cannabis growing facility in Prince Rupert and expressed frustration with the fact that there is no policy in place.
“There’s a huge shortage for cannabis in the public market,” Lewis said at the meeting. “So the city by not entertaining this is costing anywhere from $50,000 – $100,000 in revenues.”
Councillor Wade Niesh said that not having a policy was not a matter of “not wanting to have the operations of growing it.” Rather, creating a process would have to be done in steps.
“Federal rules, provincial rules, they all come into place and it takes time,” Niesh said. “It’s not an overnight thing … we are working toward other parts of this.”
In an emailed statement, Veronika Stewart, the city’s communications manager said that the city would be updating its official community plan and zoning bylaw in the near future.
“It is likely that the topic of commercial marijuana operations will be considered as a potential permitted use in an appropriate zone at that time,” she said in an emailed statement.
For his part, Lewis said that he wants to pursue the opportunity in Prince Rupert and for now he is willing to wait and work with the municipality.
However, he said that there is a limited amount of time to get in on the ground floor of the industry and he will explore other options if necessary.
“If I can’t make things work here, I’m going to have to go somewhere else,” he said. “It’s kind of a race to get started.”
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Matthew Allen | Reporter
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