There are 17 medical marijuana producers lining up to locate in Hamilton, but the city still doesn’t know where the facilities will go and how large they should be.
The city has received 17 letters of intent from potential pot producers who have applied to Health Canada under new rules that open the door to new production facilities.
But on Tuesday, the city’s planning committee still couldn’t decide what kind of size restriction to put on them in rural areas – one of the only powers the city has.
Nine of the applications are for plants in urban areas. Of those, four are in commercial zones, so they won’t be approved, said Ed VanderWindt, director of building services.
On Tuesday, the planning committee voted that when plants locate in urban areas — preferably brownfield sites — there’s no limit on how large they can be. The only stipulation is that the plants must be on lands zoned industrial or business park.
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But in rural areas, a draft city plan limits the size of the facilities to 500 square metres, or 5,000 square feet. This is so pot producers don’t use valuable farmland, and also to encourage them to locate on brownfield sites. The rural aspects will come back to a future meeting.
The rural size restriction creates a problem for at least one of those 17 medical marijuana producers. Bill Panagiotakopoulos, CEO of First Access Medical, told councillors he plans a 75,000-square-foot, three-level facility in Flamborough.
The limit of 5,000 square feet seems arbitrary, he said.
“Limiting the size of a production facility would negate investing and building something in Hamilton,” Panagiotakopoulos told the planning committee.
As for locating in the urban area, “we have no problem with that” either, Panagiotakopoulos said afterward. His company is looking at a building downtown to set up another facility.
Cities across Ontario have been grappling with how to deal with the influx of medical marijuana facilities.
On April 1, federal regulations changed. Previously, patients could only get medical marijuana from individuals or one of four licensed producers in Canada. Under new regulations, patients can get it from licensed growers only.