Marijuana grow operations on a commercial and personal scale are active in the city core.
They are permitted in the downtown business district and other areas of Prince Rupert due to federal loopholes, Mayor Lee Brain said at the city council meeting, on June 14.
“This isn’t a Prince Rupert problem. This is a Canada problem,” Brain said.
After an ‘animated conversation at the grocery store’ City Councillor Nick Adey was prompted to address what everyone knows is there, is talking about, and can smell, by requesting a greater understanding process of council’s limits to be explained to the public.
“What seems clear to me is the number of people who know that there are grow-ops in some of the buildings downtown is far greater than the number of people who understand what the city’s position is or what the city’s limitations are,” Adey said.
Mayor Lee Brain agreed to ‘lock it down’ and state emphatically for the public that the city in no way endorses or supports marijuana grow operations.
“First, let’s talk about the city’s position, which is in our Official Community Plan (OCP),” the city leader said. “We’ve made it very clear that the city does not support any commercial, marijuana growing operations within the commercial or residential areas.”
The growth facilities currently under operation in the city are legal and categorized under personal licenses for medical use Brain said. They, therefore, do not fall under municipal jurisdiction but under federal laws. This means that the people responsible for growing have applied to the federal government through Health Canada for a license.
In some circumstances, notice is to be provided to municipal organizations, however, under the particular licenses issued to the growers of Prince Rupert they do not have to do so, Brain said.
“No notice is required to give to the city or any agency that they’re going to be moving into any location. In fact, we believe it’s a loophole.”
Prince Rupert isn’t alone in the issue and the problem isn’t isolated to the Northwest or to the province. Many other municipalities are battling the same issue, he said.
The city is bringing the issue forward to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the mayor said.
“I’ve talked to many other mayors across Canada who also are having the same issue. There seems to be a loophole where as long as you’re in a personal licence for medical use, you can actually grow based on whatever the prescription a doctor has given you, anywhere, in any location and then trump any bylaw across the nation,” Brain said.
The lack of rules leaves open the possibility for a grow-op in downtown, a residential area, or even directly next to a school, the mayor said.
“Under the law, the federal government says that they cannot withhold a person’s ability to treat themselves medically, which is why they allow them to grow to a certain amount within wherever they would they choose to grow.”
“So, in terms of residents who are concerned about grow-ops in Prince Rupert’s downtown, the city has zero jurisdiction and in fact, has not even been notified on where these locations are.”
Brain said under the Health Act the city isn’t even entitled to know where the grow facilities are located, even though people can walk in front of them and know where they are.
The issue is a longstanding one, the mayor said, with the legislation governing the situation outdated from the earlier 2000s and not part of the recent legislative changes to marijuana laws. More specifically, for example, he said, four people can conglomerate and if each was permitted 50 plants, that would total a grow operation of 200 plants. Each licence holder can appoint a designated person to grow on their behalf, leaving the 200 plants under the care of one person in one location, potentially.
“Ultimately, the city’s official position is that we do not want any sort of growing operation of the downtown or residential zones. And we do hope that the federal government does come in a big way to actually address this … We do not find it appropriate [for those locations] to be in those uses,” Brain said.”However, they are legally entitled to use those places … without us being able to have any ability to enforce our bylaws around those areas.”
“It is a frustrating process. However, I do believe that working together with communities across the country and working with the FCM, putting policy resolutions, and engaging with the federal government and Health Canada, we may be able to make some progress here and find some sort of balance for the act on how it’s written today,” Brain said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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