Another piece in the puzzle that is Saanich’s approach towards pot is falling in place.
A public hearing scheduled for Jan. 15 will consider plans to align the agricultural production of recreational cannabis with provincial regulations.
Saanich wants to prohibit the emergence of bunker-style growing facilities in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) leading to the loss of arable farmland.
Proposed bylaw changes awaiting public input state the growing of pot only qualifies as a legal farm activity if it happens in open fields, in buildings with bases consisting of soil; and in existing and future crop-growing building under construction before July 13 — the deadline identified in a Aug. 15 bulletin from the Agricultural Land Commission concerning the cultivation of marijuana in the ALR.
Cannabis growing operations that do not meet those conditions represent non-farm uses that require approval from the Agricultural Land Commission under provincial regulations that allow municipal governments to control but not restrict the conditions of cannabis production.
Public opposition stopped a pot farm in Central Saanich earlier this year, with critics lamenting the pending loss of arable farmland. Farm proponents — who already operate a bunker-style facility to grow medicinal marijuana — noted that cannabis currently grows on 0.0000051 per cent of all ALR land in B.C. in suggesting that critics of the pot farm are really critics of legalization.
If Saanich council passes the measures, it will have resolved one question around the production of marijuana in Saanich. Coun. Nathalie Chambers has floated the idea of using light industrial areas for production. Also outstanding are regulations concerning the retail of pot.
Mayor Fred Haynes signalled last year strong support for the recreational cannabis industry as an economic opportunity.
“We [Saanich] are 30 per cent of the [regional] population, so we are 30 per cent of the market,” he said at the time. “This is a huge economic opportunity.”