New rules for cannabis on Delta ALR land

Delta will now be able to block marijuana grow operations from setting up on agricultural land – sort of.

The B.C. government today announced that local and First Nations governments will able to prohibit cannabis production in the Agricultural Land Reserve within their communities, unless it is grown in ways that preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land.

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The regulatory change, effective immediately, gives authority to local governments to “prohibit cement-based, industrial-style, cannabis-production bunkers on ALR land in their communities” but also stipulates that cannabis production cannot be prohibited if grown lawfully in an open field, a structure that has a soil base, a structure that was either fully constructed or under construction with required permits prior to July 13, 2018, or in an existing licensed operation.

The regulation also allows local governments “to prohibit the altering of existing structures to increase the size or material used as the base of the structure, and applies, or will apply, to licensed medical and non-medical cannabis facilities in the ALR.”

The regulatory change pertains only to land in the ALR. Local governments can regulate or prohibit cannabis production on lands outside of the farm zone.

Several Delta greenhouse operations have already begun growing pot, a concern for local officials who warned about a threat to food production and potential impact on land prices hurt the long-term viability of farmland for growing food. The city’s position is that recreational or medical marijuana operations should remain within industrial sites.

Mayor Lois Jackson, who brought up the issue with federal officials during a recent trip to Ottawa, said the announcement sounds like good news, but the city is going to need much more clarification on what’s allowed.

For example, greenhouse operations have concrete floors, so will new ones planning to grow pot be still allowed? Also, allowing recreational pot to be grown in open fields could pose security and other issues such as odour, so will the city have no ability to regulate them?

“If they don’t have a permit to be in a greenhouse now, it sounded to me like they couldn’t do it. But there’s some big questions. It’s certainly a small step in the right direction but I’m not sure it covers it all,” Jackson said.

The UBCM has called on the province for a moratorium on pot operations on ALR land, but Jackson noted that could have meant a year or two of study.

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