Local governments will have more control over marijuana production under new rules announced Friday morning by the provincial government.
“This is a big change,” said Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese shortly after seeing the announcement from Victoria.
The change, which takes effect immediately, allows local and First Nations governments to ban “industrial-style” cannabis production in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
It appears to give communities like Langley Township the authority to ban concrete-floored greenhouses or enclosed bunker-style buildings for pot production.
“It looks promising, but I don’t think it’s going to do much to resolve the issues we already have,” said Councillor Kim Richter, who is running for mayor this fall.
Richter and Coun. Bob Long both noted that Langley Township might not be as free to operate as some other communities. The Township is a “regulated” community when it comes to farming, and B.C. Ministry of Agriculture approval is sometimes required for local regulations.
Langley Township recently asked the premier and minister of agriculture for a moratorium on cannabis production on agricultural land, until Victoria consulted with farmers, municipal governments, industry, and the public.
That came in the wake of complaints from neighbours of one of the country’s largest legal marijuana farms.
A Canopy Growth facility in South Aldergrove hosts more than 200,000 cannabis plants in an existing greenhouse close to the U.S. border.
Neighbours had complained about the smell, lights, and sometimes noise from the vast facility.
The new rules would allow local governments to ban similar projects – but they will not allow retroactive bans. Existing licensed operations can continue to operate.
The ban also applies only to cannabis grown in a structure.
Local governments can’t ban marijuana if grown in an open field or “in a structure that has a soil base,” according to the provincial announcement.
Froese said the Township will likely seek a legal opinion on the new rules and then explore its options.
“On the face of it, it seems we have a little more authority than yesterday,” he said.
He noted it may still not go far enough for some people, and that “production has to happen someplace” as recreational marijuana becomes legal on Oct. 17 this year.
But it will allow local governments to address some of the impacts on land, the environment, and neighbours, he said.
In the past, the Township has attempted to regulate medical marijuana cultivation in the ALR, but the Agricultural Land Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture pushed back, ruling that medical marijuana was a permitted use in the ALR. About 70 per cent of Langley Township is in the ALR.