Despite urging from several regional directors to slow down the process, large-scale production of medical marijuana will be allowed in industrial zones in the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen.
After a public meeting in the morning and a lengthy debate in the afternoon, regional directors passed third reading of the bylaw amendment to allow cannabis production as a permitted use in industrial zones.
Voting against the amendment were director Tom Siddon, Area D (Kaleden/OK Falls), Elef Christensen, Area G (Rural Keremeos/Hedley) and George Bush, Area B (Cawston).
Siddon spoke at length about his opposition to allowing cannabis production facilities in industrial areas and his general opposition to recreational marijuana use.
“The question is why are we rushing this?” Siddon asked just moments before the vote. “It’s important that the public be consulted.”
Siddon took offence to the amount of time allowed for a presentation by Duncan Gordon, chief executive officer for Sunniva Inc. during the public meeting Thursday morning. Sunniva Inc. is interested in building two large greenhouse facilities at the old Weyerhauser mill site in OK Falls.
“Why rush to ramrod this through and put it through,” Siddon said. “Half the public meeting time was spent advocating for that project. That isn’t fair. The public is confused.”
Gordon presented plans during the public hearing outlining the company plans to invest about $125 million into the area and create 220 jobs.
“The intent for this facility is not retail sales. It is my understanding that there has been some challenges in particular to OK Falls area with retail sales and cannabis. That is not our intent for this facility. This is purely for the manufacturing and cultivation of medical grade cannabis,” he said.
Karla Kozakevich, chair of the RDOS, said during the last RDOS meeting the consensus of the board was to allow cannabis production in industrial zones to encourage those in that business not to use agriculture land for large warehouse type operations.
“It can go on agriculture land right now and we think it’s better suited to go in industrial zones,” she said.
At this point, Sunniva Inc. has not yet applied for any permits from the RDOS and it’s also publicly been stated the company is also looking at land in the Osoyoos Indian Band industrial park.