Albas peppered with questions about pot

Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas - Submitted
Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas
— image credit: Submitted

Expect a few coughs when Canada’s new medical marijuana regulations roll out in April, MP Dan Albas told a group of local politicians last week.

“Will the new regulations be perfect? No,” said Albas, the representative for Okanagan-Coquihalla.

“But regulations can be changed, and so let’s try this new set of rules that will take into account some of the considerations I’ve heard, and as we learn how this new market operates and this new system operates, we can continue to work on corrective actions when needed.”

Albas appeared before a committee of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen last week to discuss a host of local issues, but pot dominated discussion.

Earlier this month the RDOS passed a motion calling on the Agricultural Land Commission to reverse a ruling that makes production of medical marijuana an allowable farm use.

Rural Oliver Director Allan Patton, who made the motion, told Albas he’s concerned local governments will have no say over siting of such operations on agricultural land, even if they’re beside a school.

“This kind of thing we need to be able to do and we can’t do it now because the ALC has said that it (growing medical marijuana) is an allowable farm use,” Patton said.

Albas said the ALC’s pronouncement is a “made-in-B.C. issue” that should be taken up with the provincial government, but he noted that each application to grow pot will be judged carefully by Health Canada.

“If you take a situation, the worst-case scenario where you’re talking about next to a school or next to a neighbourhood or whatnot, (applicants) have to address those concerns… and the cost may be prohibitive in some of those cases,” he said.

The MP also noted that grow-ops will need to otherwise comply with local zoning bylaws, which will allow local governments a measure of control.

But the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden said he’s worried that monitoring and enforcement of such facilities will essentially be downloaded onto police and local governments.

“It puts a huge burden on the (police) if that is your only means of ensuring standards are met and community concerns are respected,” Tom Siddon said.

Albas was also asked about the government’s plan to shut down at-home grow operations that will be banned as of April, but he said the onus will be on licensees to quit.

“Human nature is that there may be (some) that do not comply, but they do so at their own peril,” he said.

Canada Post’s decision to phase out home delivery of mail over the next five years was also raised with the MP, who told the committee the matter has generated surprisingly little heat in his riding.

“I’ve received very little feedback from constituents,” Albas said.

“In fact, the amount of people that are unhappy about it are smaller than the people that have said they understand the need for any corporation, given the circumstance that they’ve been given, to make changes to its business model.”

Albas said the change will affect about 12,000 households in his riding, while another 38,600 households already pick up their own mail.


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