Despite long opposition, the City Delta has given initial approval to an amendment that would allow cannabis to be grown on farmland.
The amendment, which received first and second reading on Monday (Aug. 27), comes after the provincial government decided cannabis production was an acceptable land use in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
That decision, made in mid-July of this year, means that pot can be produced on ALR land if it is grown lawfully in either an open field, a structure with a soil base, a pre-existing structure, or a structure that was under construction as of July 13.
Cannabis production in concrete bunkers is not considered an acceptable farm use.
In the past, the city has strongly opposed the growing of marijuana on farmland.
In 2014, council attempted to change Delta’s zoning bylaw to prohibit medical marijuana production in all zones, only allowing facilities to be approved on a case by case basis. This was blocked by the province, which said lawful cannabis production is an acceptable farm use and can’t be blocked by municipal bylaws.
Now that recreational marijuana is set to be legalized on Oct. 17, the city is updating its bylaw to reflect the province’s recent land use decision.
“Our bylaw amendment is taking the new agricultural land reserve wording, and putting it into our zoning bylaw as it relates to any zone where farming is permitted,” Delta director of community planning and development Marcy Sangret said. “If you have farming as a permitted use, then it specifies that the growing of cannabis is allowed, subject to conditions.”
Some of these conditions include that the lot must be in the Agricultural Land Reserve, the grower must have all the necessary federal and provincial licences, and they must follow the rules set out by the provincial government in July.
The majority of Delta’s farmland is in the ALR, and is zoned A1 for agriculture. However, this amendment also applies to A2 (golf course and agricultural), I1 (low-impact industrial) and I2 (medium-impact industrial) zones, as those are also found in the ALR.
The zoning bylaw amendment proposes to exclude cannabis production and research from low-impact industrial areas, as well as manufacturing and warehousing zones.
Delta is also considering a few other amendments to its zoning bylaw when it comes to cannabis. These are largely housekeeping changes that will continue to prohibit cannabis smoking lounges and dispensaries in all zones, as well as have research and development facilities, dispensaries and production facilities excluded from the list of acceptable home-based businesses.
It also further clarifies the City of Delta’s position that dispensaries are prohibited in all zones, and cannabis production, research and development is only allowed in zones “where such use is expressly permitted.”
The amendment to Delta’s zoning bylaw will now go to a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 25. If the amendment receives third reading from council, it will then be sent to the Ministry of Agriculture for review before final approval.