Cannabis producers coming to Chilliwack won’t be allowed to grow marijuana on farmland in industrial-style, cement-based bunkers post-legalization.
Chilliwack council approved text amendments and new zoning definitions Tuesday for cannabis production facilities (CPFs).
Cannabis in the Agricultural Land Reserve can be now be prohibited unless it is “grown in ways that preserve the productive capacity” of agricultural land.
“It’s a small win,” said Coun. Chris Kloot.
Chilliwack reps had been hoping the province might enact a moratorium, as suggested by the Township of Langley, on pot growing and processing in the ALR until there had been widespread consultation with all sectors.
But that wasn’t to be.
Instead, the recent changes mean no industrial-style cannabis facilities will be allowed in the ALR with cement bases, for example, reinforcing the principle of keeping agricultural land in reserve for food production.
“It’s better than nothing, but we’re not there yet,” said Kloot.
Recent provincial changes to rules about growing pot in the ALR led to the Chilliwack amendments this week to the zoning bylaw, which the ag advisory committee had initially recommended.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz offered Coun. Kloot “a huge thank-you” for “advocating fiercely” for the protection of “farm land for food land” during these discussions about cannabis in the ALR.
The non-conforming type of CPF can be sited in M6 special industrial zones, but not on agricultural land within the ALR.
Coun. Chuck Stam questioned what would happen with any current CPFs that are non-conforming.
The answer he got was that they would be “grandfathered” as existing non-conforming use, and that the new rules would not apply.
Mayor Gaetz wanted to know if council or the city had any power to “phase” out the existing non-conforming operations, with odour bylaws or other tools.
The staff response was that there were “no tools” that municipalities could employ to regulate the federally licensed CPFs. Local government could make representations to the Ministry of Agriculture or the Farm Review Board, as avenues.
The staff report contained the background:
“On July 13, 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture announced regulatory changes to allow Local Governments and First Nations to prohibit cannabis production in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) unless it is grown in ways that preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land,” according to the report in the Oct. 2 council agenda package.
Under the new rules, local governments, and cities may not prohibit cannabis production if grown lawfully with federal licences:
• in an open field;
• in a structure with a soil base;
• in a structure either constructed or under construction, with permits in place, prior to July 13, 2018; or
• in an existing licensed operation.
The report noted that the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) released a bulletin in August outlining legislative changes for local governments and clarifying that cannabis production which does not meet “ALR Use, Subdivision and Procedure” regulations, is considered non-farm use. To proceed with these types of CPFs, producers must obtain approval for non-farm use from the ALC.
“Should a non-farm use application be received for a cannabis production facility within the ALR, for example a cement-based, industrial style bunker, such application would be subject to review by the City’s Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee and Council consideration,” the staff report continued. “Should Council resolve to forward the application to the ALC, the Commission would determine whether or not to approve the non-farm use. A rezoning or Temporary Use Permit would then be necessary (subject to public input and Council consideration) to permit such non-farm uses on ALR land, on a site-by-site basis.”