B.C.’s local government organization says it was blindsided by a provincial policy change that declared all cannabis production in the Agricultural Land Reserve as farm use.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities found out in early May that a regulation change in February means the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is no longer dealing with applications to grow cannabis.
Farming communities around the province have pressed the B.C. government to protect farmland from large greenhouse complexes for legal marijuana taking up the province’s scarce food-growing land. ALC regulations prevent concrete pads from being put on farmland to grow marijuana, and now the change leaves local governments with the task of controlling how much farmland is covered by cannabis fields grown in soil.
“UBCM was not consulted on the legislative and regulator change that have changed the characterization of cannabis production in the ALR,” UBCM president Arjun Singh said in a letter to B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson this week.
“As it appears that many local governments were unaware of the change to consider all cannabis production as farm use, and that consequently the ALC would no longer be considering applications for cannabis production, the amendments have had the effect of creating a three-month gap in which some forms of cannabis production may have been unregulated in terms of ALC oversight and/or local government land use regulations.
“Given the requirements for creating or amending local government bylaws, it is foreseeable that this gap could continue to exist for many more months.”
The UBCM executive is also writing to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, asking why the change was not communicated to local governments, and the status of applications that the ALC may have received for non-farm-use cannabis production since February.
The UBCM is also still waiting for word on a revenue sharing formula with the province and local governments for legal cannabis sales. The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch still has only one cannabis store, and private stores have slowly been opening around B.C. as federally licensed suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand.