County adopts cannabis production bylaw
By Shaelyn Poteet
On March 28, Clearwater County Council passed third reading of a bylaw that will regulate the production of cannabis in the county.
The room was full for the public hearing, which saw a well-rounded show of opinions. Many spoke in favour of the bylaw to limit mass-production of medical marijuana, and, when it is legal, recreational marijuana to industrial properties.
“We are receiving a lot more requests for these facilities, and we’ve taken our time in doing the research,” said Keith McCrae, director of planning and development. “Now we are feeling an urgency to get a bylaw passed in order to deal with these production facilities.”
Some in favour of the bylaw supported industrial zoning and the opportunity for economic development in the area, while others supported it as a means of keeping cannabis away from the community.
“Cannabis can bring economic growth to the area,” said Andrea Garnier-Spongberg. She went on to say that she would like to see micro-production, or production of less than 600 kilograms of cannabis per year in a 200-square-foot facility, have the opportunity to be developed across all zones.
“There are rules and regulation in every facet of life and they are established for the well-being of the majority,” said Marianne Cole of the Clearwater County Taxpayers Association. “The federal government has already recognized the concerns about production of this crop.”
She went on to say that a plant growing in the ground does not equal agriculture, though there are similarities.
“Just because things have similar qualities it doesn’t make them identical. That’s like comparing a Holstein and a Hereford,” she said. “Agriculture is related to the production of food, and cannabis is not a food: it’s a drug.”
Those opposed to the bylaw included those who have a green card and permission from the federal government to produce medical marijuana for personal use, and others who were concerned they would lose the right to grow personal plants when it’s legalized this summer. Some also wanted clarification between the production of industrial hemp and cannabis.
“The way [the draft] is written, it will be illegal for people to grow a few plants in their own home, which will be federally legal on July 1,” said Helge Nome. “I think you need to go back to the drawing board.”
Carmen Cole has a license to grow personal plants for a medical condition.
“I’ve gone through all the steps to be able grow my own cannabis [for my condition]. Who are you to take that away from people?” she asked. “This isn’t about getting high.”
Craig McMorran, who has been very outspoken about his opposition of the bylaw over the last month, going so far as to create a website, Facebook page and email list, made an appearance and asked administration to take a step back and wait on passing the bylaw.
“Is marijuana an industrial thing or an agricultural thing? This is not a new argument,” he said. “What you’re trying to do is block farmers from growing before anything has even happened. We should keep our options open rather than keeping everything closed due to a lack of information.”
Following the close of the hearing, council made small amendments to the bylaw to make it clear that industrial hemp production, personal medical marijuana production and federally-regulated personal recreation production are excluded from the industrial zone parameters.