North Saanich is adding its voice to a call for the province to ban recreational marijuana production on land within B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
Echoing a Central Saanich resolution presented earlier this month at the annual convention of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall got the support of most of her council to make a similar plea to Victoria.
Finall said she is going after recreational cannabis production, and not medicinal, due to the fact there’s a Supreme Court of Canada decision that makes access to medicinal cannabis a right.
“I don’t think that applies to recreational marijuana,” she said.
She added the Central Saanich resolution through the AVICC, also asks the Province to put recreational cannabis production regulation on hold until there is more consultation with communities. Finall said there’s a fear that such production will end up covering more farmland and swaths of the ALR could be covered in high-security pot bunkers, like the one operated by Evergreen Medicinal next to the Michell Farm store in Central Saanich.
North Saanich will ask the Province to prohibit recreational marijuana on ALR land and urge them to make the recreational product an industrial activity, not agricultural, and regulated as such.
Council’s lone dissenting voice, Councillor Murray Weisenberger, said farms on the Saanich Peninsula already use greenhouses to grow things that aren’t necessarily classified as food — such as flowers. He also noted there’s also a shortage of industrial land, which could be used up if recreation cannabis production takes off.
Finall said B.C. hasn’t regulated recreational marijuana production like they have with the medicinal counterpart — a reason she’s wanting to make the request now. In 2015, the BC Liberals changed the province’s ALR rules, allowing medicinal cannabis production on ALR land, in keeping with federal rules. That change prevents municipalities from banning the activity.
Coun. Jack McClintock asked whether golf courses in the District could grow marijuana. Both North Saanich golf courses — Glen Meadows and Ardmore — have or are about to change ownership and it has raised speculation in the community about what might occur on that land.
Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan said the answer depends on whether those golf courses are within the ALR or not. If it is, then the District cannot prevent it. If it’s outside the ALR, Buchan said municipal policies and bylaws would be in effect.
McClintock had, himself, sought council approval on two suggested motions at the April 16 meeting. One was to get legal advice on the province’s authority over municipalities when it comes to ALR use, and the second was to seek criminal record checks on anyone applying for a cannabis production business license from the District. Both of those motions were not approved.