The Citizens for Protecting Agricultural Land (CPAL) have collected over 1,400 signatures to support their cause, and it will be presented in the House on Thursday by MLA Adam Olsen.
The petition was concerned with paving over ALR land for any purpose, but was prompted by a proposal to place greenhouses on the former Stanhope Dairy Farm by Evergreen Medicinal on Vancouver Island.
The group have stated they are not against the production of marijuana per se, but they would prefer to see it on industrial land since marijuana is typically grown indoors.
Olsen has raised the issue of marijuana grow-ops on ALR land with Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham, said Olsen’s chief of staff Aldous Sperl.
“It’s highlighting that there is a substantial number of people in his riding that care about the issue,” said Sperl.
Olsen has also committed to trying to get the minister to meet with the group, said Sperl.
CPAL communications co-ordinator Ken Marriette said the group met with Olsen, and he committed to deliver their petition in the House before the end of this sitting. Olsen invited up to 10 members of CPAL to watch from the gallery. Marriette said Central Saanich mayor Ryan Windsor has also committed to helping the group. The District of Central Saanich has sent a letter to Minister Popham requesting a six-month moratorium on growing marijuana on ALR land, which passed unanimously at the council level.
Marriette said the group was told a petition would “fall on deaf ears,” because if the government truly wanted to regulate this, they would have done so already. The group, however, was undeterred. They heard there was a public consultation on ALR land launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Minister Popham, and they tried to get to a public meeting in Nanaimo, but it was full.
Marriette said he was told by Popham’s office that meaningful changes would not take place until the fall of this year or the spring of 2019. With that in mind, the group began campaigning for a moratorium. “Stop this now, because that will give us some breathing room, because the more you leave this door open, the more horses leave the barn, the harder it’ll be to fix it.”
The group started collecting signatures province-wide, but soon narrowed their focus to Vancouver Island.
“I have a niece in Chilliwack who lives in a farming community who sent over 84 of them,” said Marriette. “It’s delightful.”
Marriette said since the house is only in session for a few more days, a meeting was not likely, but the Minister’s office told him to “keep asking, and we’ll try to fit you in when the appropriate time is here.”
“We would consider it a minor, positive step forward if [Popham] called for a moratorium and did some hard thinking about where these [greenhouses] belong,” said Marriette.