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City of Langley pondering pot production parameters

Langley City council is considering a bylaw that will make it illegal to grow medical marijuana within City limits once new federal laws come into effect next year. - wikimedia image
Langley City council is considering a bylaw that will make it illegal to grow medical marijuana within City limits once new federal laws come into effect next year.
— image credit: wikimedia image

Is the City of Langley an appropriate place for the commercial production of medical marijuana?

The question was raised at the April 8 meeting of City council, as the municipality considers how it will address upcoming changes to federal laws surrounding the cultivation of prescription pot.

By March, 2014, all existing medical marijuana licences will have expired. After that, production will no longer be permitted in private homes, instead being confined to secure and closely monitored commercial locations.

Rather than implement restrictive zoning, as some municipalities — including Maple Ridge, Surrey, Coquitlam and Vancouver — are reported to be considering, Langley City is proposing a complete prohibition on the production of medical marijuana within its boundaries.

Only Councillor Dave Hall argued against the motion, which passed first and second reading at the meeting, saying it represents a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) attitude that confuses the issue of medical marijuana with recreational use.

“This appears to be out of step with the  direction taken by other municipalities and sets the City apart as a target for legal contention at taxpayers expense,” Hall wrote in a prepared statement, released prior to the meeting.

He added that the bylaw “jumps the gun on draft  legislation that has not been completed but … addresses both security and environmental concerns” and that it “constitutes an attack on legitimate users of a doctor prescribed medicine or pharmaceutical that is a potential pain relief for a variety of conditions.”

Councillor Gayle Martin replied that medical marijuana will continue to be available within the City to people with prescriptions, but that doesn’t mean it should be grown there.

“Within the four square miles … of the City of Langley I do not feel we have enough agricultural land — other than Newlands golf course — for a person to operate commercially,” said Martin.

“It’s not prohibiting the use of medical marijuana, but I don’t feel our community fits commercial grow operations. I have no problem with this (bylaw).”

“What community does have that fit?” asked Hall.

Marijuana cultivation is an indoor activity, he said, adding it is easier to make an indoor operation secure.

And, he added, it makes sense to keep production as close to the customer as possible to keep costs down.

“How far from the consumer does the product get driven?

“Many people accessing (medical marijuana) because of issues they have, are some of the most marginalized people.”

“Do we start growing lettuce in downtown Langley City because we have to get it from California in the winter?” asked Martin.

Hall’s attempt to table the motion until the return of Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was absent from the meeting, died without a seconder.

“I think this lacks compassion — this attitude and the tack we’re taking,” said Hall.

Under the new rules, medical marijuana will be dispersed through pharmacies or by mail and consumers will be limited to purchasing 150 grams at a time — which works out to five grams per day for 30 days.

Last February, Langley MP Mark Warawa spoke about the changes to the program at a meeting of Langley Chamber of Commerce.

Over the course of 11 years, the medical grow program has expanded from under 500 licences in 2002 to 26,000 in 2013, he told the gathering.

There are a number of safety concerns with medicinal marijuana grow operations, Warawa added.

“It’s not a perfect system, but we believe this will help dramatically.”

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