Dion Hopkins wants to open a medical marijuana production facility in the old Stephen's Sheet Metal building on Bute Street near Fourth Avenue.

Entrepreneur eyes legal grow-op for city

The former Stephen's Sheet Metal building on Bute Street may become the location of a marijuana production and mailing facility.

A local entrepreneur’s plan to open up a medical marijuana grow-op in Port Alberni is being welcomed by the mayor.

Mayor John Douglas said he welcomes all types of new businesses to Port Alberni and he views the legal marijuana grow-op as the equivalent of a pharmaceutical company wanting to open up in the city.

Last week, Dion Hopkins publicly spoke about his rezoning application that would allow him to open a medical marijuana distribution centre, grow-op and laboratory at the former Stephen’s Sheet Metal building on Bute Street.

“From my perspective, if a large medicine manufacturer came to town and they wanted to manufacture medicine in the community, we would welcome them,” Douglas said.

“This is a prescribed medicine mandated by federal government guidelines.”

Douglas said he met with Hopkins about two weeks ago to discuss his plans. Douglas also said any negative stigma associated with marijuana must change.

“There was a stigma attached to alcohol in the 1920s,” he added.

Hopkins, a civil engineer technologist, said the chosen location was decided after consultations with city planners. If the rezoning is successful, he will invest more than $50,000 on security at the site alone, which is required under new federal government rules for commercial marijuana growers.

He explained that the grow-op in the building would be small and for research purposes as the main grow-op would be somewhere in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

The building would primarily be the main office for his company and a distribution centre for medical marijuana, which would be mailed only to those with a prescription, as per Health Canada’s new guidelines. People would not be able to walk in and access the drug.

“Health Canada does not allow for that,” Hopkins said. “We have to mail it to them through Canada Post.”

Hopkins also hopes to distribute edible marijuana for patients not wanting to experience the high that comes from smoking it. However, Health Canada does not currently allow the production of edible products.

Hopkins explained his interest in medical marijuana started after seeing family members respond well after using it for various medical reasons. He has experience working with individuals setting up legal personal grow-ops, which will be banned when new Health Canada regulations change next year.

“A lot of people forget why this system was put in in the first place,” Hopkins said. “People with AIDS use this to get an appetite to eat, people undergoing cancer treatment use this to treat severe nausea.”

Hopkins added that he was approached by a group called B.C. Releaf Marijuana to start a grow-op business because of his experience and that he picked Port Alberni because it is his hometown and he likes city council’s pro-business attitude.

Hopkins expects to makes a presentation at the next city council meeting regarding his re-zoning request.

ACRD chief administrative officer Russell Dyson said the ACRD has been approached in recommending potential sites for a marijuana grow-op.

He said regional district staff are treating it like any normal business.

“It’s strictly a land use issue,” Dyson said. “Our planning department is going to look into it and will present their findings at the next board meeting.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com