At best, his business will be lumped into a category including pawnshops, methadone clinics, escort services and exotic dancing.
At worst, he'll be asked to pack up shop and leave town.
Coquitlam council unanimously passed the first reading of a zoning bylaw Monday that aims to regulate a host of different aspects of the federal government's policies regarding medical marijuana.
Included in the proposed bylaw is a move to prohibit any medical marijuana dispensary that lacks a federal licence from setting up shop in any zone within Coquitlam. Originally passed in 2009, the city's undesirable business bylaw also prohibits businesses like pawnshops or exotic dancing from obtaining a business licence in the city.
The ramifications of that decision mean that Christopher MacLeod's newly opened medical marijuana dispensary in Maillardville could soon be forced to close.
"It would basically blanket me in a bylaw that would prevent me from helping people," MacLeod told The NOW Tuesday.
He acknowledged that the issue of establishing his shop at 931 Brunette Ave. included some legal grey areas, and suggested Health Canada's rules around the issue are vague.
"Because of the law, there's no one way or the other," he said. "You can't do it legally and you can't do it illegally because there are just no rules in any way about it."
That point was countered by police earlier this month, when a July 6 press release issued by the Coquitlam RCMP said there is "no legal mechanism available in Canada today" that allows for a self-described "medical marihuana (sic) dispensary" or "compassion club" to function.
Maillardville Residents' Association president Al Boire said Tuesday his 300member group is also opposed to the business's presence in the community due to the legalities - or lack thereof - involved.
"It's an uncontrolled, unmonitored business," he said. "It may be that this particular one is doing what he says he's doing, but there's no way of truly verifying that."
Coun. Terry O'Neill took a similar stance Monday.
"I think every aspect of it would, in a theoretical sense, be illegal. I can't see where there's much grey involved at all," he said.
The federal government's Marihuana (sic) Medical Access Regulations allow access to marijuana in four different scenarios: an authorization to possess, which allows someone to possess and use marijuana for medical purposes; a personal-use production licence, which allows someone to grow medical marijuana for their personal use; a designated-person production licence, which allows someone to grow medical marijuana for others with an authorization to possess; and a licenced dealer, which allows a person producing marijuana under contract with the federal government to sell marijuana to others with an authorization to possess.
As part of Monday's discussion, council did address some of those provisions, including the personal use aspect.
"If you're permitted under federal law to grow medical marijuana for your own purpose because you have a medical illness, it is outright permitted in any residential zone," said Raul Allueva, the city's acting manager of planning and development.
The other clause the city looked at was the designated person production aspect, which, under the proposed bylaw, would be restricted to five sites in south Coquitlam under the M3 special industrial zone.
The new specifications also require that any marijuana production outlet be a standalone facility and be removed from other land uses on one of the five sites: 914 Sherwood Ave., 1601 and 1963 Lougheed Hwy., 98 Brigantine Dr. or 125 Glacier St.
However, all five of those sites currently have uses on them and only three different scenarios could see marijuana production facilities situated on those lands: if the business relocates, if the landowner asks the current tenants to move or if the applicant asks for rezoning elsewhere.
"There's going to be challenges for someone trying to do a production facility for medical marijuana in the city. It's going to be challenging," Allueva said.
"They likely would have to rezone unless they were able to acquire one of these sites and make it their primary business. We do understand that would be challenging. Many of these sites have multiple businesses in them and they're operating."
A public hearing on the bylaw is set for Monday, July 30 at Coquitlam City Hall, located at 3000 Guildford Way.
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