Grow-op faces new hurdle

It appears a large-scale marijuana grow-op that broke ground in Kaleden earlier this year still has a regulatory hurdle to clear with the Agricultural Land Commission.

Green Mountain Health Alliance held a ceremony in March for the start of construction on a 200,000-square-foot medicinal cannabis production facility on a property on Hwy 3A, about 7 km west of Kaleden.

However, the company is before the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen next week to ask for support in an application to the ALC to place fill on the property to prepare for a sub slab under greenhouses and a parking lot.

The encroachment of industrial cannabis production onto ALR land has provoked outcry from many municipalities concerned about the loss of arable farmland.

The province responded Friday by amending regulations to give local governments the power to block “industrial-style, cannabis-production bunkers” that do not utilize an open field or a structure with a soil base.

GMHA head facilities designer Dominic Unsworth said the facility they are building is far from a “bunker,” and will utilize seasonal greenhouse growing and geothermal heat.

“This is intensive, high-tech, high-density agriculture,” he said, calling the objection to medicinal cannabis production is “absolute ignorance.”

Staff with the RDOS have recommended the board support the company’s application to the ALC, although the project’s local rural director, Tom Siddon, has been a vocal opponent of cannabis production on farmland so far.

The RDOS board also appears to have the authority to block the ALC application outright, but Unsworth thinks that is unlikely, as previous medical cannabis grow-ops have been supported by the majority of the board, save for Siddon and occasionally one other vote.

If the RDOS supports the application, the ALC will ultimately have the final say on if the land can be filled to make way for the greenhouses. The project is being developed in partnership with the Penticton Indian Band, who will be supplying many of the workers for the build and expects to employ well over 200 workers when complete.

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