The province has given the green light for medical marijuana to be produced in the Agricultural Land Reserve despite objections from some cities.
Along with the formal change to the ALR regulation making medical cannabis an allowed use is a standard that municipalities are expected to follow in passing local bylaws to control any federally licensed commercial pot producers within their boundaries.
Delta, Langley Township, Abbotsford and Kelowna must have approval from the province on any bylaws they pass affecting farmland, so Victoria has a hammer to force them to comply.
Other municipalities may have a somewhat freer hand in passing restrictions but they cannot prohibit licensed pot farms outright.
The province’s bylaw standard sets out setbacks from streams and property lines, a maximum footprint size for the facility, and minimum distances from parks, schools and urban or ALR boundaries.
The agriculture ministry said it expects all local bylaws to comply with the bylaw standard and the amended regulation by early fall, adding it sought to ensure as much ALR land is used for agriculture as possible while balancing other requirements.
Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese, one of the municipal leaders who opposed allowing the construction of heavily fortified pot factories on ALR land at all, said Friday he is studying the new rules.
Froese said the province appears to have taken into account many issues raised by municipalities, but added he is still concerned cities will face higher costs to regulate the facilities and police quiet country roads for any criminals they may attract.
“The biggest concerns we have is safety and protection of the environment,” he said.
Langley Township has already set a business licence fee of $5,000 for medical marijuana producers and Froese hopes that won’t have to change.
“That gives us some control over inspection and that’s important,” he said.
“Medical marijuana, as far as I’m concerned, is a pharmaceutical. It’s a lot different than just growing tomatoes.”
Under the provincial rules, pot producers on ALR land will still have to pay industrial property tax rates, not the lower agricultural rate.