Sam Mellace has been growing medical marijuana legally on agricultural land in FVRD Area F for a decade. FVRD's proposed zoning bylaws will permit him to remain on his land

Grow-ops welcomed in some FVRD areas; shunned in others

Big differences in how electoral areas and cities propose to regulate medical marijuana production.

Local communities are adopting widely divergent rules when it comes to regulating the production of medical marijuana.

Electoral areas and municipalities in the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) are deciding whether or not they will allow commercial grow-ops in their territories – and if so, under what type of zoning. The deliberations come in advance of new Health Canada rules, in effect April 2014, that prohibit medical marijuana users from growing their own supplies and restrict all production to largescale commercial operations.

FVRD electoral area directors have submitted their proposed zoning regulations, and each has a different approach. Area D, for instance, has proposed to ban grow-ops completely; Area A has proposed to allow them everywhere within its boundary.

Director Bill Dickey represents Area D, which covers Popkum and Bridal Falls.

“My community has its own character and personality, and I looked at the community and talked to some of our citizens, and my decision was that it should be prohibited in our community. We’re not looking to encourage that type of business,” said Dickey.

Area A director Lloyd Forman welcomes legal medical marijuana production facilities anywhere in his area, which includes Boston Bar. Forman explained that when a sawmill relocated from the area to Surrey some years ago, Boston Bar lost 300 jobs, and the community went from being the wealthiest in the district to the poorest.

“Jobs are really crucial on the list. My theory is, give me 25 or 30 legal jobs, and I’ll take them. Period,” said Forman.

Without business moving to the area, Forman is worried the community will start losing its existing services – the grocery store, the gas station – and living there will be very difficult.

“Whatever it takes for that level (of services), we do need something. So if it’s a marijuana plant, my people do not want to be left without any services,” said Forman.

FVRD Electoral Areas B and G propose to allow grow-ops in agricultural, industrial, and rural zones, with the exception of Yale town. Area F seeks to allow them in agricultural and industrial zones, while Area C wants to allow them in agricultural areas only.

Abbotsford and Mission, each an FVRD member municipality, have bylaws under consideration that ban new grow-ops entirely. Chilliwack has opted to restrict them to a special industrial zone reserved for businesses such as slaughterhouses and asphalt manufacturers.

After FVRD staff draw up the draft zoning bylaw amendments for electoral areas, the proposed regulations will go to public hearing and for approval by the board of directors.