The owner of Meadow Creek Cedar is growing medicinal marijuana on the company’s former mill site.
“The RCMP told me [Dale Kooner] does have a license for it,” rural Kaslo regional district director Aimee Watson said in an interview this week. “Health Canada won’t tell me anything about it.”
Because the operation is in an un-zoned area, Watson said the RDCK has “little to no jurisdiction” over the matter other than the building code. She said Kooner has met with their building inspector.
It’s unclear how many plants the operation is licensed to produce or when the license was granted. However, residents have indicated the former carpenter shop and old kilns have been converted for that purpose and a handful of employees are involved.
“I’m concerned about it because of the impact this business person has had on our community in the past,” Watson said. “Medical marijuana is an economic opportunity when it’s done right, or it could be a detriment. This person doesn’t have a positive track record.”
Kooner bought Meadow Creek Cedar from a Japanese company in 2005. Under his ownership, its license was repeatedly suspended and threatened with cancellation for poor forest practices before it was finally sold to Canfor last year.
Kooner’s operation was also rapped by the Forest Practices Board and faced numerous lawsuits. The BC Employment Standards Branch went to court to collect nearly $50,000 in unpaid overtime and holiday wages owed to former employees, including Mexican migrant workers.
Watson said she was “totally shocked” to learn Kooner had been granted a permit. “It came to my attention by local people telling me four to five months ago,” she said. “Because of what happened with Meadow Creek Cedar, my reaction was ‘Are you kidding me?’ I thought it was a joke.”
Watson said she assumes Kooner’s license isn’t under the strict Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations that came into force in 2013, spelling out conditions for commercial industry, but rather under the previous Marijuana Medical Access Regulations.
The latter program, which allowed individuals to grow medicinal marijuana for their own use, was supposed to end in 2014 but a federal court injunction allowed authorized producers to continue pending the outcome of a constitutional challenge.
The Liberal government has since promised to legalize marijuana, but has not laid out a timeline for doing so.
Watson said the RDCK received a letter from Kooner in 2013 indicating he was applying for a permit under the new regulations. Health Canada’s website lists seven authorized producers in BC, but doesn’t give their addresses.
Health Canada’s generic response to a resident’s complaint about Kooner’s operation said with the repeal of the old regulations, the agency “does not have the authority to conduct inspections, amend, renew or revoke authorizations and licenses that were issued under the [old regulations].”
Watson said she hasn’t inspected Kooner’s site herself, but RCMP told her the number of plants being grown does match the license. Police have a copy of the license, she said, but she has not seen it.
Kaslo RCMP weren’t available for comment this week. Kooner could not be reached.