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Local gov blindsided on pot

B.C.’s local government association says it feels blindsided by the Ministry of Agriculture's decision to deem cannabis production on the Agriculture Land Reserve a “farm use” — a decision municipalities were not informed of for three months.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities says it learned earlier in May that the ALC is no longer handling applications involving cannabis on farmland. The regulation was repealed in February, but not publicly disclosed until this month.

“UBCM was not consulted on the legislative and regulatory changes that have changed the characterization of cannabis production in the ALR,” said UBCM president Arjun Singh in a letter to FLNRO Minister Doug Donaldson.

South Okanagan municipalities have wrangled with the issue of cannabis production on farmland since legalization was announced. Local governments like the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and District of Summerland have already brought in rules to keep “bunker-style” concrete grow-ops off farm land.

Under the new rules, municipalities will still have the ability to block grow-ops that use a concrete foundation, but cannabis grows that utilize topsoil appear to have been unregulated since February.

“As it appears that many local governments were unaware of the change to consider all cannabis production as farm use, and that consequently the ALC would no longer be considering applications for cannabis production, the amendments have had the effect of creating a 3-month gap in which some forms of cannabis production may have been unregulated in terms of ALC oversight and/or local government land use regulation,” Singh said.

The UBCM is asking the provincial government why the change was not immediately communicated to local governments and for an update on applications that the ALC received but not not evaluate since February.



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