This screen shot from a Kelowna RCMP DVD shows an illegal marijuana grow-op that was busted in 2012. Police complained they had trouble distinguishing illegal grow-ops from legal medicinal grow-ops â€” or that some legal grow-ops grew more than they were allowed. After Tuesday, that won't be a problem as medicinal users will no longer be granted licences to grow their own.
The federal government has responded to widespread complaints about the odour and unwanted traffic associated with licensed grow-ops in neighbourhood houses.
Ottawa stops authorizing people to grow marijuana for medical reasons on Tuesday and will ban growers from cultivating it in private homes on April 1.
As a substitute, Health Canada plans to issue companies a limited number of licences to set up commercial-sized operations. Those
applying must notify their municipality, fire department and the RCMP.
Local governments have had little control over where growers
assemble their indoor crops. Municipal councils like West Kelowna and Summerland are drafting the regulations companies must follow when the new rules take effect.
"We're on the right track to recognize that this is a reality, that this change is coming," said West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater. "There's a business opportunity for a few people and a medical need. We don't want this (to be) a widespread problem in the community and we're on the right track to manage this."
Four commercial operators have already asked district staff what the rules are going to be. In a 5-2 decision, West Kelowna council voted last week to restrict licensed grow-ops to industrial areas so they're away from schools, day-cares and homes.
Councillors haven't specified which industrial area (although Byland and Stevens roads are possibilities) or determined what bylaws need tweaking. More will be disclosed at a public hearing that's yet to be scheduled so people can speak before council debates the zoning amendment.
But a few things are certain. The onus will be on proprietors to install their own security to prevent crooks from stealing their plants. They'll have to address building-code issues like odour, waste disposal, condensation from watering, and proper wiring.
"They've all got to be inspected by building inspectors," Findlater said. "There may be building-code requirements in terms of surveillance . . . and they have to meet the fire code."
The district will reap some reward in tax revenue, more than it would if the commercial grow-ops were zoned agricultural. But Ottawa is expected to limit the number of licencees to reflect the finite number of people with prescriptions for medical marijuana.
At least 100 licences to cultivate weed legally in the Okanagan will be quashed. Users will be barred from growing their own or having someone grow it for them. They'll order their weed by mail or buy it from a licensed dispensary or licensed commercial grower instead.
Findlater said the market will dictate who stays in production and who fails. Quality of marijuana is crucial to users, and a challenge for commercial growers is they can't produce the same calibre in a large greenhouse that they can at home.
Even so, the licensing of grow-your-own pot for medical reasons has been an "abject failure" for residents living next to the operators, Findlater said. His council complained to the federal Health Minister before Ottawa changed the policy.
"It's widely accepted that there's a medical value to this for some people . . . But it has to be managed in such a way that it doesn't create all kinds of other problems," he said.
"We had one strata (unit) where nobody lived but there were all kinds of people coming and going to take care of these plants. And the strata council got very excited about that."
Kelowna city staff are examining where to put the larger operations as well as bylaw enforcement and inspection services. Council has yet to discuss the changes.
Kamloops recently introduced a bylaw that restricts large-scale grow-ops to industrial areas. They must be farther than 150 metres from any school, residential area or place where children gather.
Mission is considering limiting commercial medical grow-ops to farmland. Chilliwack has revised its zoning amendment to allow them only in industrial zones.