Metchosin is trying to restrict the ability of registered medical marijuana producers to build grow-bunkers on farmland. This particular image was an illegal grow-op found in a shed in Saanich in 2010.

Metchosin aims to restrict medical marijuana grow-op ‘bunkers’

Farmland poor use for indoor marijuana facilities, say Metchosin councillors

Metchosin council has championed the legalization of marijuana, but it doesn’t want to see commercial grow-op bunkers crop up on agricultural land.

In past years, district’s effort to decriminalize marijuana has carried forward to municipal conferences covering Vancouver Island and B.C., but it is now drafting a bylaw in an attempt to restrict grow-op buildings on farmland.

“Farming is an important part of this municipality. It’s our wish to protect agriculture here in Metchosin,” said Metchosin Mayor John Ranns.

“This has nothing to do with marijuana. Why strip the top soil to put an acre of concrete over the soil? We don’t feel this is appropriate to build industrial buildings on agricultural land. Industrial buildings should be built on industrial lands.”

Health Canada is ending small personal medical marijuana grow-ops, and is replacing those with licensing of large commercial operations. New regulations will be in force by April 2014.

Grow-op permit holders must meet specific building requirements, including fencing, restricted access, monitoring and intrusion detection.

Licence holders will commercially produce, package, and store the product in indoor facilities and ship to the customer via a courier.

Metchosin is drafting a bylaw to limit where these facilities could be built, such as restricting buildings to lots larger than 10 acres. The requirement of external lighting could also conflict with Metchosin’s dark sky policy.

Metchosin currently has residents with permits to grow personal amounts of medical marijuana on their property.

“Smaller permits were not a problem, they were just grown in people’s residences,” Ranns said. “(Now) it’s basically a shift to larger operations.”

Metchosin doesn’t want to see large concrete buildings on agricultural land. “Significantly larger structures” will take away from other crops on viable farming land, Ranns said.

Even if the district passes the bylaw, the provincial government will have a final say on the validity of the regulations.

Ranns said Washington State growers are able to grow marijuana outside and not in “bunkers.”

“I would prefer to start seeing the total acceptance of marijuana.” Ranns said. “It’s just another field crop our farmers can grow. We are in a transitional period.”



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