The City of Delta will continue lobbying senior levels of government to further regulate cannabis production on agricultural land.
On Feb. 11, councillors voted in favour of pushing Health Canada to impose a moratorium on issuing licences for cannabis production facilities in Delta until the federal department sets up a system to mitigate odours coming from greenhouse operations. In addition, council also passed a recommendation to lobby the province to ban cannabis cultivation on agricultural land.
The concern, as noted in a report by city staff, is that with more greenhouses converting to cannabis production following the legalization of recreational marijuana last October, there will be fewer food producers in Delta.
The report points out that after Houweling’s Nursery greenhouses finally convert to cannabis production, the facility — at 2.2 million square-feet — will be Canada’s second largest. All told, Delta will be home to more than five million square-feet of cannabis-producing greenhouses.
“With over 50 percent of Delta’s land base being within the [Agricultural Land Reserve], many more cannabis production facilities could establish themselves within city limits with little control from Delta, and cumulatively result in less areas available for local food production,” the report says.
In order to restrict such activities in the ALR, the city has to convince the provincial government and the Agricultural Land Commission to amend the latter’s decision that cannabis production is a designated farm use.
On the topic of odours coming from cannabis production facilities, the report said though Health Canada requires licensed producers adhere to all municipal laws, it has no system in place to ensure growers comply. Per federal regulation, a designated cannabis production site “must be equipped with a system that filters air to prevent the escape of odours and, if present, pollen.”
In November 2018, Mayor George Harvie received a letter from Murray Driediger, president and CEO of BC Fresh, who complained about the smell of a cannabis greenhouse on 80th Street. He wrote that at times his workers cannot stand the emissions.
”There are days when the odours are unacceptable and it impacts quality of life in the area for those that live and work nearby,” Driediger wrote in his letter. “The impact of masking deodorizers used by the cannabis greenhouses can be just as bad and is no panacea.”
The staff report also said that Health Canada has not addressed the issue, even after city staff met with representatives from the department and Metro Vancouver last fall.
“Staff urged Health Canada to address the issue directly through their licences. To date, little improvement has been observed,” the report reads. “Staff maintain that Health Canada should fully address odour mitigation prior to issuing production licences.”
At council, Coun. Dylan Kruger asked the mayor what the city’s delegation intends to bring up with the federal government when it travels to Ottawa next week. Mayor Harvie said he will ask Health Canada to hold cannabis growers on agricultural land to the same standards as growers on industrial land when it comes to odours and emissions.
“The odour control by Health Canada in our industrial areas has worked very well,” Harvie answered. “But for some reason, they’ve chosen to ignore their own regulations in our agricultural areas because they feel it’s not going to harm anybody [and] that it won’t be a nuisance to anybody.”
With respect to a recommendation that development applications for retail cannabis shops in Delta not be accepted until a council workshop was undertaken, the mayor wanted to do away with any ambivalence on future pot shops. He disagreed with the recommendation and instead proposed that any efforts to start allowing applications for retail stores first go through the new public safety committee, which would hold community consultations and send its own recommendations to council.
Pending those recommendations, council will further instruct staff on how to go about allowing retail pot shops in Delta. For now, however, the city will not be accepting any applications for them.
“We have zoned out the ability for cannabis dispensaries in our city,” Harvie said at council. “I don’t want the retail public out there that were interested in cannabis dispensaries thinking that we’re open for business — we’re closed for business at this time and until further notice, to be decided by council.”