Saanich’s first legal marijuana facility heads to public hearing

A federally licensed marijuana facility in Saanich waiting for approval from Saanich to sell its product to patients by mail order

A federally licensed marijuana facility in Saanich is ready to sell its product to patients across Canada, but it first needs to pass through public hearing.

Thunderbird Biomedical Inc. CEO Rob Gagnon told council Oct. 6 that his company is already conducting marijuana research and development at a light industrial site on Commerce Circle in Saanich’s Glanford neighbourhood.

Gagnon was applying for a zoning amendment that would allow dried medical marijuana to be sold to patients by mail order from the facility.

Gagnon declined an interview request from the News, but Coun. Susan Brice said the company has been actively fielding questions from residents and providing tours of the site to alleviate fears about such a facility near a residential neighbourhood.

“Given (Gagnon’s) interaction with neighbours and the community associations, there was enough to send the rezoning bylaw application to public hearing,” Brice said. A public hearing date has not yet been set, she added.

Gagnon has reassured residents and council that stringent security measures are in place that include at least 36 surveillance cameras at the site.

Should the zoning amendment pass, Thunderbird will be restricted to mail-order sales with no opportunity for on-site retail.

Richard Wanbon, whose Springridge Crescent home backs onto the lot adjacent to Thunderbird’s unit, said most of his concerns have been alleviated but he worries that the potential legalization of marijuana could lead to future on-site sales.

“If the drug schedules change for marijuana in the future, I want to ensure users aren’t coming to the facility,” Wanbon said. “I hope some protection along those lines can be written into the zoning bylaws.”

A staff report from Saanich director of planning Sharon Hvozdanski recommended amending the zoning bylaw to permit licensed medical marijuana production.

Another company, Evergreen Medicinal Supply, operates a legal grow-op on agricultural land in Central Saanich. Under ALR rules, medical marijuana production is an allowable land use and does not require municipal approval.

Thunderbird Biomedical, one of only 13 companies with a licence to produce and sell medical marijuana in Canada, plans to open an additional facility on Hillside Avenue in Victoria, Gagnon told Saanich council. Further details were not available.

Thunderbird’s parent company, T-Bird Pharma Inc., trades on the TSX Venture Exchange.

Federal laws governing medical marijuana will soon change after the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a decision in August that means medicinal marijuana suppliers will soon be able to produce edible, topical and other ingestible products. The case stemmed from a 2009 Victoria police raid of the Cannibis Buyers Club of Canada, a medicinal marijuana dispensary in downtown Victoria. The federal government has until August 2015 to create new legislation that complies with the ruling, unless the case heads to the Supreme Court of Canada on appeal.

– The province views medical-marijuana production as an allowable farm use within ALR property. However, medical marijuana does not qualify for farming tax exemptions.

– with files from Daniel Palmer

reporter@saanichnews.com