Councillors back pot plant
A proposal to start the first commercial medical marijuana grow-op business in Richmond is gaining traction at city hall, and appears to be headed to a public hearing.
On Tuesday a city council committee unanimously endorsed MediJean’s bid to rezone an industrial park building near Ironwood to allow a federally-licensed pot plant to begin operating.
A city council vote next Monday, Feb. 24, will determine whether the proposal advances to a public hearing.
“Let’s give it to the public to see what kinds of concerns they may have if this business goes forward,” said Coun. Chak Au, a member of council’s planning committee. “Based on the merits of this application, I think it’s worth considering.”
MediJean has applied to Health Canada for a licence to produce and sell medical marijuana. It already operates a medical marijuana research facility at its 24,126-square-foot facility at 11320 Horseshoe Way, next to Richmond RCMP headquarters.
The federal government’s medical marijuana program is undergoing significant change.
Individual licences to possess and grow the drug expire March 31, when licensed commercial producers—seven have been licensed so far—will become the only legal distributors. New regulations are aimed at cutting abuse and improving safety, according to a Health Canada.
The changes prompted Richmond council to change city rules in December, effectively banning producers anywhere in Richmond. But applicants are still able to apply. MediJean did, and it’s likely to get early approval from council Monday.
Au said MediJean’s products have medical value, noting representatives told committee its marijuana can be grown to suit a particular patient’s needs. But Au also said he has “great reservations” about the effectiveness of the federal government’s new strategy.
Under the former program, licensed medical marijuana users—there were 21,986 in 2012—could grow their own plants at low cost. Now those users will be forced to buy from companies, but Au doesn’t believe all users will abandon the lower-cost method of growing their own.
“The cost will be much much higher. Whether or not this is affordable, at least to some people, is a question,” he said. “That’s why I don’t think the policy itself can get rid of the problem that they wanted to get rid of in the beginning.”
City staff know of at least a handful of other potential operators who have applied for Health Canada licences to grow medical pot in Richmond.
In a news release earlier this month, MediJean CEO Jean Chiasson emphasized the quality of his firm’s marijuana.
“We have built a team that will ensure our standards meet or exceed the safety, quality and consistency of a ready-to-eat-food product. It is our policy at MediJean to not only deliver quality but breed it, to guarantee that patients who use our medicine get the best medical marijuana available.”