On Monday, the planning committee will receive a report on the zoning and other implications a prospective commercial marijuana grower will have to meet if they want to supply Sudburians who have a legal right to medicinal pot.
After April 1, people who have permission to buy pot for medical reasons will have to buy it from an approved commercial grower. Previously, they could grow their own or buy it from Health Canada. As of December 2012, there were more than 8,600 people in Ontario who were authorized to possess marijuana.
To prepare for the new rules, which requires patients to buy only from approved commercial growers, Greater Sudbury is considering whether it wants to pass a bylaw to govern how it deals with applications to operate a production facility in the city.
“The regulations aim to treat marijuana like other narcotics used for medical purposes and aims to create a new industry for the production and distribution of quality-controlled marijuana for medical purposes,” a staff report says.
“The new regulations respond to numerous stakeholder concerns with the previous program, including the risk of abuse by criminal elements; health and fire risks associated with the cultivation of marijuana plants in homes; and patients’ concerns regarding the length and complexity of the application process.”
The goal of the new laws is to create a process in which legal commercial growers “provide an accessible and reliable supply of medical marijuana,” the report says.
Health Canada will be responsible for inspecting and auditing marijuana producers, who have to follow strict rules regarding such things as product quality, personnel, record-keeping, safety and security. Medical marijuana will be distributed to registered clients through secure courier.
Previously, growers approved by Health Canada faced few restrictions, and there was little municipalities could do about odour and other complaints from neighbours.
“Under the new regulations, municipalities are permitted to regulate the development standards and location of medical marijuana production facilities through local zoning-bylaws,” the staff report says.
“Health Canada regulations state …licensed producers are required to notify their local government, local police force and local fire officials of their intention to apply to Health Canada, so that local authorities are aware of their proposed location and activities.”
So if a producer were to apply to open a production facility in Sudbury, the city needs to be ready with a bylaw outlining local policies, the report concludes. If city council decides it wants to formulate a bylaw, public hearings would be held to get input.
And with more than 8,600 medical marijuana users approved in Ontario alone as of December 2012, it's likely a producer will be interested in setting up in Sudbury.
“It can be anticipated that operators may attempt to establish federally licensed commercial production facilities in the city,” the staff report says “As such, it is necessary to contemplate the impacts from a planning perspective, in addition to all other relevant regulations, to mitigate the potential impact that these facilities could present relative to public safety and nuisances.”
Greater Sudbury Police have expressed concerns about the backgrounds of commercial growers, and want to ensure they are properly screened. Security measures at such a facility is also a key concern.
Meanwhile, the Greater Sudbury Fire Department wants to ensure growers are following strict fire code regulations and are willing to open facilities to ongoing inspections.
“Medical marijuana production facilities are intended to be highly secure areas,” the report says. “To assist in maintaining a higher level of security for these sites, the city may consider requiring that they be separated from publicly accessible uses and residential areas which would include lands zoned residential, institutional, commercial, park and open space.”
Members of the planning committee are being asked to give city staff approval to formulate proposed amendments to current zoning bylaws and to schedule public hearings on the changes.