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

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

Medical cannabis operation in the Shuswap may face regulatory hurdles

Residents’ views mixed, uncertainty regarding ALC support affects facility near Celisa

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 quite 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 this 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 once were 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 the 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, they 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

In that regard, the development in Celista is contrary to ALC regulation: although they are not underground bunkers, 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.”

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.

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

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

 

Liht Cannabis Corp’s independent director Richard Huhn and chief operating officer Linda Sampson speak to the crowd gathered during a public information session at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, Nov. 17, one of two held that day. The other meeting in Celista attracted about 200 people. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Liht Cannabis Corp’s independent director Richard Huhn and chief operating officer Linda Sampson speak to the crowd gathered during a public information session at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, Nov. 17, one of two held that day. The other meeting in Celista attracted about 200 people. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Liht Cannabis Corp’s independent director Richard Huhn and chief operating officer Linda Sampson speak to the crowd gathered during a public information session at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, Nov. 17, one of two held that day. The other meeting in Celista attracted about 200 people. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Liht Cannabis Corp’s independent director Richard Huhn and chief operating officer Linda Sampson speak to the crowd gathered during a public information session at the Cedar Heights Community Association in Sorrento, Nov. 17, one of two held that day. The other meeting in Celista attracted about 200 people. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Swimming laps remains a permitted activity, at least for now, at the SASCU Rec Centre pool following new provincial orders on Dec. 3. (File photo)
A couple of activities still permitted in Salmon Arm recreation facilities

Following provincial orders regarding pandemic protocols, adult group sports have been cancelled

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

Salmon Arm’s Rotary clubs and two churches are teaming up to provide up to 600 meals for pick up on Christmas Day 2020 for people in need. (Shutterbug75/Pixabay)
Salmon Arm Rotarians, churches to produce 600 Christmas meals for those in need

A ticket will provide a free turkey dinner to pick up on Friday, Dec. 25

Shuswap Middle School Students kept over 1500 lbs of batteries out of the landfill with a recycling drive. (CSRD Photo)
Shuswap student battery drive keeps 1,500 lbs out of the landfill

Students learned a lot about the benefits of recycling

Salmon Arm homes with dazzling Christmas light displays are wanted for the inaugural Light Up the Night Christmas Light Contest. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Festive contest encourages Salmon Arm to light up the night

Prizes to be won for homes with best Christmas displays

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

It was an opening day filled with blue skies, sun and COVID-19 protocols at Vernon’s SilverStar Mountain Resort Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Passholders enjoy sunny opening day at Silver Star Mountain

Resort staff say parking reservations, COVID-19 protocols went smoothly Friday, Dec. 4

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Two arrested after attack at Vernon home

Police spotted around 43rd Avenue linked to Wednesday assault

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
Kelowna hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced the Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Most Read