Local governments will have the right to prohibit some of the production of marijuana in the Agricultural Land Reserve within their communities, Victoria announced on July 31.
It’s an issue that had raised concerns in many B.C. municipalities, including North Cowichan which sent a letter to Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham in April reiterating North Cowichan’s long-standing preference against the siting of pot operations on ALR land.
This regulatory change, effective immediately, gives authority to local, as well as First Nations, governments to prohibit cement-based, industrial-style, cannabis-production bunkers on their ALR land.
But pot production in ALR land can’t be prohibited if grown lawfully in an open field; in a structure that has a soil base; in a structure that was either fully constructed or under construction, with required permits in place prior to July 13, 2018; or in an existing licensed operation.
According to a statement from the province, the new framework is intended to allow local and First Nations governments to make decisions regarding cannabis production that align with local planning and priorities in their communities.
Once the federal Cannabis Act comes into force on Oct. 17, 2018, the federal government has announced it will allow cannabis producers to grow marijuana in open fields, greenhouses and industrial bunkers.
In its letter to Popham, North Cowichan said it preferred siting pot facilities on industrially-zoned lands where possible.
The letter also stated that if pot production is allowed in the ALR, North Cowichan should be granted authority to establish development permit requirements to address the siting of these facilities to reduce their impacts.
Other municipalities on the Island, including the City of Victoria and the Capital Regional District, also sent letters at the time to Popham stating they would like to see medicinal pot operations located off ALR land.
There are currently no marijuana-production facilities on agricultural land in North Cowichan, and no applications have been submitted to establish any to date.
North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said it appears the province has listened to the municipalities that raised concerns over the issue.
“Our concern was the use of our valuable ALR land for industrial-type cannabis production in large industrial buildings,” he said.
“This sounds like very good news based on what our council was seeking. Council will be interested to discuss this and decide on the next steps we want to take on this issue.”