Pot farming under review

The issue of allowing commercial medicinal pot operations in the Municipality of North Cowichan has been deferred for further review.

  • Feb. 26, 2016 8:00 p.m.

Robert Barron Citizen

The issue of allowing commercial medicinal pot operations in the Municipality of North Cowichan has been deferred for further review.

Council decided in a recent meeting to postpone a final decision on whether medical pot can be grown in the municipality’s agricultural zones until North Cowichan’s agriculture committee can review the issue and offer recommendations to councillors.

Mayor Jon Lefebure said the issue was deferred not because there’s a debate at the council table as to whether medicinal pot should be grown legally in the municipality, but what rules should be placed on the operations.

That’s because North Cowichan received correspondence in 2014 from the province indicating that the government sees medical marijuana production as an allowable farm use within agricultural lands which shouldn’t be prohibited by local government bylaws.

That was followed last year by a latter from the Ministry of Agriculture indicating that it’s expected that local governments will review and, as necessary, amend their bylaws to allow medical pot production in their agricultural zones.

Planner Dave Pady said council wants more information and recommendations from the agriculture committee, mainly over how far the pot-growing facilities should be from each other, the adjacent roads and other operations in the agricultural areas.

The push to allow commercial medicinal marijuana operations began in earnest in 2013 after the former federal Conservative government introduced the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations Act.

The act required patients to buy their medicinal pot from licensed providers instead of growing their own, which was allowed under previous rules.

But those rules were tossed aside by a federal judge this week who struck down federal regulations restricting the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own pot, and gave the new Liberal government six months to come up with new rules.

The constitutional challenge was launched by Nanaimo resident Neil Allard and three other people from B.C. who argued that the legislation violated their charter rights.

But Lefebure said the changes in federal laws regarding who can grow medicinal pot shouldn’t have any impacts on council’s discussions on allowing commercial pot operations within its agricultural zones.

“Our discussions are strictly about where large facilities can be sited, and I don’t see a direct correlation between our identifying site lines with this court case,” he said.