Council Tuesday issued Emerald Health Botanicals a temporary use permit for the production of medical marijuana in the Royal Oak area. Black Press File

Saanich lets pot business roll along

Council issued a temporary use permit for the production of medical marijuana to the only legally licensed marijuana business in Saanich.

Emerald Health Botanicals will produce and distribute medical marijuana out of industrial space in the Royal Oak area after council issued a temporary use period of three years for space in a multi-unit building near its existing operations.

The building housing the temporary facility lies directly opposite the building at 101-4226 Commerce Circle, where the company has been growing medical marijuana since 2014 following a rezoning and public consultation process.

The company – which grows marijuana under a Health Canada licence – needs the additional space to help production as the company completes a new facility in the Lower Mainland.

The licence governing Emerald Health Botanicals prohibits storefronts and dispensaries. The company handles all sales online or by phone and delivers by mail.

Council’s support for the temporary use permit was unanimous. Public comments focused on parking in the area, which borders private residences, with a number of schools nearby.

Councillors acknowledged those factors and pointed towards efforts to address those concerns. The public also heard that this specific application would have no immediate impact on parking.

Coun. Susan Brice said the company has proven itself since its arrival.

“When this business came to us in 2014, at that time, the marijuana issue was a little bit more provocative and not as mainstream as it is now,” she said. “But right from the beginning, the applicant…made commitments of a very high professional nature, which in my opinion were kept.”

Coun. Dean Murdock agreed. “Like Coun. Brice, I marvel at having a public hearing on a marijuana production and distribution facility, and the commentary was around parking,” he said.

“I think this speaks to the era in which we are currently living. It also speaks to what is demonstratively a quality, safe, secure facility that operates with a high degree of professionalism. That is to applicant’s credit.”

Coun. Fred Haynes said it is appropriate for Saanich to give the company a temporary permit of three years.

‘Three years are appropriate, because people and equipment in this kind of life-science, high-tech, bio-tech enterprise are portable,” he said. “You can only attract talent by having some security of employment, or what we might say, tenure of employment. So three years would be a minimal amount of time.”

Chris Wagner, the company’s CEO, could not say whether the company would continue to operate at the temporary location beyond the time period of the temporary permit. “But we would like to stay here for a long time,” he said, pointing to the availability of research talent.

Council’s decision came after Victoria denied a recreational pot shop on the border with Saanich, which does not permit recreational pot shops. But if the application by G.S. Pharmaceuticals had gone forward and received approval, it would have been at least the fourth shop of its kind within the proximity of the Saanich-Victoria border.

At least three such facilities currently operate near the border of Saanich inside the City of Victoria, including one steps away from Saanich at the intersection of Burnside Road and Harriet Road.

Recreational marijuana will become legal in the summer of 2018. As this deadline approaches, both federal and provincial governments have brought in various rules governing the consumption, distribution and revenue-sharing. Saanich, however, has yet to announce any specific policies in taking a wait-and-see approach.

“At this time Saanich awaits clear policy direction from the provincial government on marijuana retailing framework in B.C. leading up to legalization in the province,” said Megan Catalano, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich.

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