Pot proposal lights up passion

Decker Lake residents want answers from medical marijuana developers

Pot proposal lights up passion

It was standing room only at a Burns Lake village council meeting on March 7, as residents of Decker Lake grilled officials from a fledgling marijuana production company about their planned pot-growing facility.

Local businessman Wesley Sam, chairman of Nations Cannabis, was there to discuss the planned facility, which he said would create more than 40 full-time jobs. Sam, a member of Burns Lake Band, also said access to medical marijuana could help Indigenous people address problems such as opioid and alcohol abuse, and that seven per cent of profits would be set aside for Indigenous development efforts, in fields including education and health care.

But residents of the Decker Lake area expressed concerns about water usage, site security, the smell of weed and whether the facility might encourage marijuana use among children. About 30 members of the general public were in attendance, a rare sight at the usually quiet village council.

Sam — along with business partner Marc Storms and technical adviser Kevin Epp, who both joined the meeting via telephone — fielded questions in a session that lasted well over an hour.

Sam stated that “absolutely no smell will be emitted from this site” but one resident expressed concern that a “skunk weed” odour could reduce his property value. “If this smell comes out and it’s wafting through my yard all the time, and I want to sell my house next year, what’s my house worth?”

Water consumption was another hot-button issue. In his presentation to council, Sam indicated that “water usage is insignificant” compared to the mill that previously occupied the Decker Lake site. He added that the project would reduce consumption by capturing rain water and by repeatedly recycling water in a sealed system.

But local area residents were unconvinced, asking for more details about how much water would be consumed by the facility — which would likely contain some 20,000-30,000 marijuana plants — in an area where residents depend on their own well water outside of the Burns Lake water grid.

Resident suggested that the facility might be vulnerable to security breaches, such as break-ins, and that its presence could encourage marijuana use among youth, especially if the facility eventually moves towards producing cannabis for recreational use.

“While under the influence, there are funky and crazy things that happen,” said one Decker Lake resident. “And these things are often detrimental to the person as well as to their families and property.”

Sam said that cannabis has proven to be an effective “exit drug,” notably for Indigenous people suffering from alcoholism and addiction to other, harder drugs. “It is proven that this helps them to get off opioids and alcoholism,” he said.

The developers also said marijuana grown by Nations Cannabis would be better regulated and healthier than that sold in the black market or grown by individuals in their homes following marijuana legalization later this year.

If this meeting was any indication, a large turnout can be expected for a public hearing on the rezoning application, which is scheduled for March 20. Decker Lake resident D’Arcy Bell had spread the word about the March 7 meeting by distributing fliers to people living near the site of the proposed facility.

The meeting was the latest step in a process that would amend Burns Lake zoning bylaws to make medical marijuana production an allowable activity in heavy industrial areas. The rezoning would affect the industrial area in Decker Lake that was formerly the site of Burns Lake Specialty Woods, a manufacturer that folded in the early 2000s.

Although the Decker Lake industrial site is located outside of village limits, the area is subject to Burns Lake bylaws and contributes to its tax base. This means that Decker Lake residents who live in the vicinity of the industrial site can’t vote in Burns Lake village council elections, leading many at the meeting to call for consultations with the regional district before any pot-growing facility gets the go-ahead.

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

Just Posted

Vaccinations are set to resume in the small community of Tatchet, according to Lake Babine Nation’s Deputy Chief. (Black Press Media file photo)
Lake Babine Nation vaccine rollout resumes after a short pause

A COVID positive test within the care team had put the vaccinations on hold

Cheslatta Chief Corrina Leween received one of the COVID-19 vaccines on the Southside, on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
COVID-19 vaccination begins in Burns Lake

Senior population, health care workers and First Nations among the first to get the vaccine

Sasquatch sighting. (Omineca Ski Club photo/Lakes District News)
Sasquatch on the loose at Omineca Ski Club

Head out to the trails to see if you can spot it; a tongue-in-cheek response from the club President

Two books in particular became quite popular at the start of the pandemic — Soap and Water Common Sense, The definitive guide to viruses’ bacteria, parasites, and disease and The Great Influenza, The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake Public Library lent 20,916 books in 2020

Gained 67 new patrons throughout the year

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read