FVRD eyes medical pot zoning rule

The Fraser Valley Regional District is wrestling with zoning for medical marijuana production on its land.

The Fraser Valley Regional District has confirmed that it will ban medical marijuana production on its rural residential land. But the regional district is still determining whether grow-ops will be permitted on industrial land, on agricultural land, or both.

“We will not be allowing it in rural residential,” said Chief Administrative Officer Paul Gipps. “We’re still debating with the electoral areas, but we’re looking at maybe in the agricultural land area. But preferably I think we’re going to end up with grows in areas where you’re allowed production, like industrial zones, as well.”

The City of Chilliwack will ban medical pot grow-ops on residential and agricultural land when the current individual growing licences expire April 1, 2014. Production will only be allowed on land with an M6 special industrial zone permit.

FVRD’s regulation will be “along the same lines” as the city’s. The regional district does not yet have regulations pertaining specifically to medical marijuana grow-ops. The only ones that apply are the building and safety standards.

Allowing pot grow-ops on FVRD agricultural land is still on the table. But the challenge is that FVRD contains a lot of agricultural land. Many private homes sit on land with farm class, which comes with tax exemptions.

“If it’s an ALC (Agricultural Land Commission plot), do they (marijuana producers) get a tax exemption for farm land?” said Gipps. “Which wouldn’t be fair to all the other people that are farming to support their families.”

For this reason, FVRD is leaning towards allowing medical marijuana production in industrial zones only.

Although FVRD has no figures on how much of its land is used for marijuana production, Gipps says that FVRD “inspectors have tripped across many.”

FVRD expects to sort out its policy before the end of 2013.

“We are wrestling with the topic right now. It’ll be going back to electoral area services committee probably by October, and we’ll get some firm direction from them at that time,” said Gipps.

The federal government announced in January that licences to grow marijuana in residential homes for private medical use will be phased out by April 2014. Instead, all medical marijuana in the country will be grown and distributed by large, highly regulated industrial operators.

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