Liht Cannabis Corps officials speak to the crowd at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, one of two information meetings held Nov. 17, the other which attracted more than 200 people in Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Liht Cannabis Corps officials speak to the crowd at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, one of two information meetings held Nov. 17, the other which attracted more than 200 people in Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Medical cannabis operation in B.C. Interior may face regulatory hurdles

Residents’ views mixed, uncertainty regarding ALC support could affect facility

The Shuswap may become home to one of the largest medical cannabis growing operations in western Canada, and one of the few aiming to conduct purely organic cultivation methods.

Many in the area are feeling positive about the development, which aims to bring around 100 jobs both directly related to cannabis as well as office and transport work. However, the site of the project – on an isolated piece of property in Celista – has raised concerns from some neighbours who believe the large development will become a nuisance to their day-to-day lives, and affect the agricultural land it is being built on.

Under construction by Liht Cannabis Corp, formerly known as Marapharm Ventures, the site aims to house 10 buildings at 10,0000 square feet each, spread across 40 acres in the North Shuswap which were once a family farm. While the company has been trying to assuage concerns surrounding the development, there is still some push-back on the part of concerned residents.

“It’s an eyesore already, it is right beside the road. These are going to be bunker-style concrete buildings, and my stand that I maintain is, why here, in one of the only benches of farmland in the whole North Shuswap, why would you put this operation here?” asks Deanna Kawatski, who lives across from the site.

Related: Salmon Arm council approves two of three retail cannabis store applications

In an effort to confront any concerns head-on, Liht held two public information sessions relating to the development this past Saturday, Nov. 17, in Celista and Blind Bay. During these sessions, key members of the company as well as the team which will be operating the facility in Celista spoke at length – including Cody Hamilton, head cultivator and senior person in charge of operations, agriculture director Gabriel Cipes and Tyler Hereld who will act as head of security.

During the information session in Blind Bay, several residents expressed their support for the development, the potential economic benefits and jobs it may bring to the area. In addition, some local investors in the company came out to get an update on progress being made.

While a large focus of the Blind Bay meeting was on the purpose of the grow-op – providing high-grade medicinal cannabis to medical users in western Canada – questions of environmental footprint and community impact were also discussed.

“When you think about a marijuana grow op you tend to think about smell, mess, maybe stealing power and illicit activities going on you don’t want in your community that could be putting you or your home at risk,” Hamilton said. “Our facilities are not a conventional cannabis cultivation operation of the past. With our practices we take careful consideration of our output materials and impact on the environment. Bio-security and preservation are extremely important factors for us.”

To support this claim, Hamilton discussed the measures taken to limit their impact on the land. The facilities will operate using proprietary technology – some of which has been developed in partnership with NASA – that will reportedly completely contain all emissions, limit water use by extracting water from the air and recycle up to 85 per cent of the water used and generate their own power to avoid tapping into local lines. In addition, he stated they will completely forgo any use of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in their cultivation.

Hamilton also spoke on questions of increased traffic in the area and times of operation, as residents raised concerns over around-the-clock traffic coming to and from the facility. He said the facility will run primarily during daytime business hours, and the traffic to and from the site was described as similar to what one could expect from a family farming operation.

The use of ALR land remains a point of contention for some residents.

“It’s a known fact these companies are going around and buying B.C. farmland; farmland is disappearing whether from drought or chemical agriculture, so many things are impacting it and we need to hang on to what we have got,” Kawatski says. “People will say there is a lot of ALR land that isn’t farmed; well maybe that is true but it still holds the potential for being farmed. If they do that kind of thing it destroys that potential.”

In July of this year, the Agricultural Land Commission introduced a regulation which designated “the production of marihuana in accordance with the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulation” as farm use supported on ALR land.

However, an amendment to the regulation limits the growing of cannabis to “outdoors in a field or inside a structure… that has a base consisting entirely of soil.”

Related: Two more government pot shops to open in Kamloops

Although not underground bunkers, in that regard, the development in Celista is contrary to ALC regulation: all 10 of the proposed buildings are concrete-based structures. However, the regulation also states any facilities in construction before July 13, with the proper permits in place for the purpose of growing cannabis or other crops, will be considered lawful under the regulation.

While the first two of the proposed 10 buildings at the Celista facility fall within the July 13 construction date, Martin Collins, director of policy and planning with the Okanagan ALC, says there is little certainty regarding the remaining eight buildings.

“The other eight buildings are still very much up in the air; they have to make an application for those for sure. They are not under construction, it doesn’t count. If it was a single unit and was under construction it would be different but they are all separate units,” Collins said.

The situation is a tricky one for the ALC – and many other regulatory bodies across Canada – because the fact is they are making many of these determinations for the first time.

“We don’t know if the ALC supports something like this, there has never been an application before,” Collins said. “We’re on the first ones, so when I say ‘up in the air,’ I mean it truly. Nobody knows if the ALC would support this or not.”

Related: Pot company hopes to replace jobs lost in mill closure in B.C. town

When asked about this during the meeting in Blind Bay, Liht’s independent director Richard Huhn expressed the opinion it would be unlikely the remainder of the development would be obstructed, considering how far along it already is.

Linda Sampson, Liht’s chief operating officer, stated: “We are not permitted under the ALR regulations to develop more than 25 per cent of our property. So it would be no different than somebody buying the land and putting up several dairy barns or something similar.”

Sampson insists the company is committed to learning from the lessons of many failed cannabis operations.

“We have seen things that are badly and poorly done. We have watched other companies who have raced ahead to become the biggest. Most people say, when they are in a bad situation, ‘in hindsight we should have done this.’ In our case on this particular project we have the hindsight of everybody who went ahead of us and did everything wrong,” she said.

Potentially complicating things further is the question of whether the company had the proper building permits in place to begin construction. The company reported to the ALC they were working under the assumption their buildings were considered farm buildings and thus did not require a building permit, but were later advised to apply for proper permits, which they did.

Currently, they have two permits in for the development with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, one for the construction and another for demolition of a building on the property. According to Marty Herbert, team leader of building and bylaw services with the CSRD, these applications include “approval of the proposed land use from the ALC.”


 

@Jodi_Brak117
jodi.brak@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

One of the 10 planned cannabis growing facilities being built on Garland Road near Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)                                One of the 10 planned cannabis growing facilities being built near Celista. The development is expected to house ten buildings at 10,000 square feet each. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

One of the 10 planned cannabis growing facilities being built on Garland Road near Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer) One of the 10 planned cannabis growing facilities being built near Celista. The development is expected to house ten buildings at 10,000 square feet each. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Construction underway on one of 10 planned 10,000-square-foot buildings which will contain cannabis grow ops near Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Construction underway on one of 10 planned 10,000-square-foot buildings which will contain cannabis grow ops near Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Liht Cannabis Corp’s independent director Richard Huhn and chief operating officer Linda Sampson speak to the crowd at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, one of two public information meetings held Nov. 17, the other which attracted more than 200 people in Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Liht Cannabis Corp’s independent director Richard Huhn and chief operating officer Linda Sampson speak to the crowd at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, one of two public information meetings held Nov. 17, the other which attracted more than 200 people in Celista. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
Port Hardy RCMP catch shoplifting suspect who allegedly stole over $500 worth of clothing from local store

The suspect was eventually released with multiple conditions and to attend court in February of 2021

For over a year Loaves and Fishes Food Bank has been giving 5,000-7,000 pounds of food every week to help address the massive need in the North Island. This year, they have partnered with the North Island Gazette Hamper Fund by providing $15,000 in gift cards to help with their Christmas Hamper Program. “Loaves and Fishes believes that everyone deserves access to a reliable abundance of food barrier free, it’s a real privilege to further serve the amazing people in Port Hardy and Port McNeill by assisting the Gazette Christmas Hamper Fund,” explains Peter Sinclair, Loaves and Fishes Executive Director. Loaves and Fishes bi-weekly depot is at Saint Columba’s Anglican-United Church and bi-weekly deliveries to other organizations in Port McNeill will continue through next year. (Natasha Griffiths photo)
It’s been a unique 41st year for the Gazette Christmas Hamper Fund

‘This year has been very different than previous years due to the pandemic’

Christmas decorations at Gus' Pub. (Opal Tesch photo)
Gus’ Bar and Grill gets into the holiday spirit

Gus’ Bar and Grill has been a fixture in Port McNeill since… Continue reading

Mike Aldersey, the Port McNeill base manager for West Coast Helicopters has been awarded the prestigious Agar/Stringer Award by the Helicopter Association of Canada. (Submitted photo)
Vancouver Island pilot receives coveted helicopter industry award

Port McNeill based Mike Aldersey is the recipient of the 2o2o Agar/Stringer Award given out to select few Canadians

The notice at Port Hardy Secondary School’s athletic track. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
SD85 school tracks closed to the public during school hours

To keep P.E. classes safe, the restriction went into effect Nov. 30

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Jon Lefebure went back to construction after losing the 2018 mayor’s post in North Cowichan to work on the Cottages On Willow. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Former Island mayor retools priorities with construction project

Fresh air a benefit and satisfaction results from building eight-unit housing complex in Chemainus

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Most Read