Abbotsford seeks to keep commercial grow-ops out of the city

Council voted on Monday to prepare a bylaw that would stop the operation of commercial grow-ops in Abbotsford

Abbotsford is seeking to ban medical marijuana grow-ops in the city.

As Health Canada changes its regulations to create commercial medical marijuana operations by 2014, the city will seek to ban any of the new, licensed grow-ops from establishing in Abbotsford.

New federal regulations will end licences to grow marijuana in residential homes by April of next year, and at that time, all medical marijuana in Canada will be grown and distributed by commercial facilities.

Council voted on Monday to prepare a bylaw that would stop the operation of commercial grow-ops in Abbotsford.

Coun. Henry Braun raised the concern that prohibiting the grow-ops could lead to Charter challenges down the road.

“This isn’t so dissimilar from our harm reduction bylaw,” he said, referring to the city’s controversial law prohibiting services such as needle exchanges, which is currently facing legal challenges and a human rights complaint.

Braun asked if Abbotsford must allow for a zone where grow-ops can be located, similar to Chilliwack, which plans to allow the operations in a specially zoned areas that host industries like slaughterhouses, asphalt manufacturers and sewage treatment plants. Chilliwack will not allow grow-ops on agricultural land.

City manager George Murray said that following discussions with the city’s legal counsel, staff are confident the issue is not the same as harm reduction and the city can zone its land as it wishes.

The Health Canada website states that licensed producers are subject to municipal bylaws, such as zoning.

Licensed producers are required to notify their local government, police force and fire officials of their intention to apply for a licence, and a report from city staff states that Abbotsford has already received notifications from four firms interested in operating commercial grow-ops.

Health Canada will not limit the number of production licences in the country and has received more than 180 applications to date.

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