Cannabis production bylaw delayed in Parkland County 

Tuesday’s second reading was derailed during the public consultation with feedback from local entrepreneurs citing a range of issues from realistic proposed facility sizes to limitations on processing. 

Parkland County is continuing to working on amendments to their land use bylaw to allow for the production of cannabis in the municipality. File photo/Postmedia Network

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Cannabis production in Parkland County will remain on hold for at least another month.

Council tabled amendments to their land use bylaw until May that would allow for the production of cannabis in the County. The bylaw was brought forward for second reading at Tuesday’s regular meeting, but did not get to a vote. The first reading was held on March 12 and sent back to administration with changes from council members.

Tuesday’s second reading was derailed during the public consultation with feedback from local entrepreneurs citing a range of issues from realistic proposed facility sizes to limitations on processing.

The biggest issue council dealt with in their discussions, however, was the feeling of a ticking clock and the potential to miss a much-needed opportunity to diversify the agriculture sector.

“Is Parkland County going to wait and lose out?” said Coun. Phyllis Kobasiuk. “We’re behind on this already. … I’d like to see us get off on the right foot. The whole market is changing but I’d like to see us get the framework in place.”

Perhaps the biggest issue was a limitation placed on cannabis cultivation operations when it came to processing their product. As the byline is currently written, it is in conflict with the Health Canada definitions for processing, and they would not be able to process or package their product. This means they would only be able to sell it at a wholesale rate of $5 a gram, if they package it and process it, they can sell it for $10-15 a gram.

“You’re restricting the economic value of the processing,” said Kieley Beaudry, owner of Parkland Flower Inc. “Any area where you’re going to allow micro cultivating, you’re going to need to include processing or you’re taking away an opportunity for that farmer to process his own goods.”

She said most operations take an investment of $500,000 to $1 million to get an indoor cultivation facility up and running. She has leveraged her house to start her business.

“If I were an investor looking to move into your county as a producer and I see that I can grow but I can’t process, because that’s what they’re going to look at, they’re going look at the next county,” she said.

Beaudry also pointed to the guidelines that will limit the ability of bigger operations and what they can do. She said most major processing facilities in B.C. are in the 5,000-10,000 square foot range, a far cry from the 3,100 square foot limit the County was proposing.

“There’s a lot to it, there’s a lot of storage, there’s some drying and curing, you have minor processing, and you’re going to need space for something as simple office space or and irrigation area where you can mix all of your nutrients,” she said.

Beaudry said she was encouraged at the open mindedness of the County when it came to production because of the opportunity that exists for new producers getting into the industry and those looking to diversify their farms.

For some, the industry represents a financial life preserver.

Mosa Marji currently works at a coal plant, but is scheduled to be laid off in August with the coal phase out. At 60, there are not a lot of options for him in a new career path and he is too young to retire. He is looking at starting his own micro cultivation operation on his eight-acre Fallis property to get him to that point. But the bylaw needs to pass first.

“I will be able to employ approximately two people and hopefully improve the economics of my community,” he said during the meeting.

Council debated the option of approving the land use bylaw as is and making changes down the road as issues arise or coming back in a month after administration has had a chance to fine tune some of the bigger issues in the current proposal.

Mayor Rod Shaigec recessed the amendments until the May 14 meeting.