City Council Snuffs Plans For Medical Marihuana Distribution Business
Prince George, BC – Two city residents are frustrated their efforts to establish a medical marihuana distribution business have been stymied by City Hall, but they have no plans to shelve the idea…
By a vote of 6-2, City Council has denied a Temporary Use Permit that would have allowed John Stiles and Doug Jamieson to operate a medical marihuana storage and distribution facility at 1798 Nicholson Street in the Carter Light Industrial area.
Unlike the storefront dispensaries that have set up shop in the Lower Mainland, Stiles and Jamieson hope to become licensed under Health Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. They were proposing a secured, fenced facility that would be closed to the public – raw medical marihuana would arrive by bonded courier, be re-packaged into prescription doses, licensed prescription patients would order it online or by phone, and the orders would go out via bonded courier.
In April, council adopted a bylaw that created a site specific zone for medical marihuana grow operations in the BCR, Danson and Boundary Road Industrial Parks. In response to Councillor Murry Krause’s query at last night’s meeting as to whether the proponents had looked in those areas, Stiles said, “Ya, we have. It’s been an onerous process to say the least – finding locations in this community with the stigma that’s attached to this particular product – we were fortunate to find this landlord who was willing to deal with us.” He added the proposal did not require a large industrial footprint because the marihuana wouldn’t be grown on-site.
As part of last night’s informal hearing, councillors heard opposition from the Salvation Army’s Captain Neil Wilkinson. The proposed facility would be a direct neighbour to the Sally Ann’s 18th Avenue location which, Wilkinson said, serves 1500 of the city’s most vulnerable families each month. “It is our opinion, that having a business that isn’t necessarily conducive to the activities of minors would not necessarily fit well with the activities for the Salvation Army.” He also said security has been an ongoing concern since the donation depot was renovated, with the fence being cut “on a nightly basis” by individuals dumpster diving. Wilkinson said the agency is working with law enforcement on possible solutions, but said it’s reasonable to assume other businesses in the area could have similar security issues.
City resident Paul Coombs encouraged councillors to grant the permit. “I support these fellows 100-percent. I’d rather see them have a storefront operation, but I guess that’s not going to happen.” Coombs said without a dispensary in the north, area residents needing medical marihuana are forced to order from the Lower Mainland.
Both Councillors Jillian Merrick and Terri McConnachie spoke in favour of granting the Temporary Use Permit. Councillor Merrick felt the proponents had done their due diligence. “They’ve made it very clear it’s not a dispensary, it’s a distribution site. There’s no public interface with this building and there’s a lot of regulation from Health Canada as to how it operates.”
But Councillor Garth Frizzell noted there was good reason for the city to tread carefully, “Since this business is the first of its kind under the zoning that we approved, you can see the city moving carefully because the decision tonight does set a precedent. So, effectively, if we approve tonight, council would be ignoring its rule on its first test.”
Frizzell admitted that’s done sometimes, “But when we do do that, I look for a stronger rationale than I saw tonight in this case.”
Speaking outside Council Chambers after the permit was denied, both men said they were surprised and disappointed after working with City staff for more than a year and a half to try and appease their concerns.
“I really thought council was a little more open and forward thinking,” said Stiles.
He said one option will be to continue to search for locations within the industrial parks, but there are no plans to give up.
“No, we’ll be back in some form or another.”