City seeks Minister’s approval for ban on legal grow-ops

Abbotsford seeks to keep medical grow-ops out of the city and requires provincial approval to keep them of agricultural land

Abbotsford will ask the Minister of Agriculture to back a ban on legal grow-ops on farmland.

As the country moves to a system of commercial grow-ops for medical marijuana production, Abbotsford has approved plans to keep the large-scale operations out of Abbotsford.

On Monday, council passed third readings for two bylaws prohibiting grow-ops. One keeps marijuana out of residential and industrial areas, and the other bans the cultivation on agricultural land.

The bylaw to keep grow-ops off Abbotsford’s agricultural areas will require approval from the minister of agriculture, and both bylaws require final approval from council.

New federal regulations will stop personal production licensed for home grow-ops by April, switching instead to facilities that will grow and distribute all medical marijuana.

Coun. Henry Braun said that as the federal government and the Agricultural Land Commission have stated that medical marijuana production is a permitted farm use, he is concerned that a ban of its growth on farm land will not go ahead.

Coun. John Smith was in favour of the bans, adding that it wouldn’t stop the city from allowing a medical marijuana grow-op through a zoning variance, but that would have to go through the necessary avenues like a public hearing.

But the decision may also face opposition from farming organizations.

The BC Agriculture Council (BCAC), which represents more than 14,000 B.C. farmers and ranchers across the province, wrote a letter to the minister of agriculture, Pat Pimm, explaining their opposition to communities imposing bans on the growing of medical marijuana on agricultural land.

The letter, signed by vice-chair of the council Stan Vanderwaal, states that the legal growing of medical marijuana should be an option available to farmers.

BCAC believes that growing medical marijuana is consistent with other farming activities and an “outright ban to grow a legal crop on agriculture land is inconsistent with the Ministry of Agriculture’s own objective.”

But Banman said that Abbotsford is not the only community seeking a ban for grow-ops on farmland, and Langley and Delta are seeking similar measures and approval from the minister.

Banman said that Abbotsford can only ask for the restriction and will have to “see what the minister says.”

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