The Regional District of Nanaimo is asking for a temporary halt to outdoor cultivation of marijuana.
A letter from the RDN to various wings of the B.C. government will be penned after a motion by Keith Wilson, RDN Cedar-area director, was approved Tuesday in response to a cannabis farm on Quennell Road.
Residents there are concerned about the smell and the possibility that chemicals in water from the property could make their way into Quennell Lake. In the letter, Ian Thorpe, RDN board chairman, will ask the agriculture, environment and forest ministries for a provincial moratorium until there are standards similar to indoor cannabis production, and a farm practices guide for cannabis has been prepared.
“I would like to point out that what we’re asking the provincial government to do in this letter is to bring in a minister’s standard that they’ve already done for indoor cultivation,” Wilson said at the meeting. “It’s obvious to anybody around this field that they moved very quickly and probably didn’t do the homework they should’ve done and all we’re asking is that they do that homework now.”
Board members expressed opposing viewpoints. Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo director and ex-police officer, spoke in favour, saying there have been “major complaints” about such sites because “the smell is intolerable” for many and there are “health issues with migraines.” She also pointed out different standards for police and residents.
“Having sat on the health and safety committee for the RCMP, and Canada Labour Code being invoked when we [had] to go out to grow-ops … I find it interesting that we’re going to subject our residents to that, yet our police aren’t allowed to be subjected to it,” said Armstrong. “They have to be geared up and everything, so just another point I want to throw out.”
Leonard Krog, Nanaimo mayor and RDN director, thought it was “inappropriate to delay the production of organic cannabis” and voted against.
“I think I’ve said proudly before, that the old line about ‘If you remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there.’ Well I want to assure everyone who’s listening that I do remember the ’60s. I was as straight and narrow as one could possibly be. I never was a great fan of those who consumed the product. I well appreciate its medical efficacy…” Krog said. “For me, this is a question around agriculture. This is a legal product. I have always been dismayed by municipalities, and other levels of government, that have attempted to make it difficult to use farmland to produce any product that is legal.”
Richard Dowker, representative for farm operator Cedar Organics Ltd., made a presentation earlier in the meeting, asking that before any action related to outdoor cannabis production, the operator be part of any review. Dowker asked that “all sides of the problem get considered.”
Vanessa Craig, Wilson, Maureen Young, Bob Rogers, Leanne Salter, Ben Geselbracht, Mark Swain, Lehann Wallace, Stuart McLean and Armstrong voted in favour of sending the letter.
Jim Turley, Brian Wiese, Erin Hemmens, Ed Mayne, Krog, Don Bonner and Teresa Patterson voted against.
A motion that would have directed staff to examine opportunities to increase the RDN’s role in regulation of cannabis production activities was defeated.