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Grower opposes medicinal marijuana ban on farmland

Bruce Bakker, the owner of Koch Greenhouses, has been legally growing medicinal marijuana since May. He came to council to object to a proposed bylaw that would restrict medicinal marijuana cultivation to industrial areas.   - Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
Bruce Bakker, the owner of Koch Greenhouses, has been legally growing medicinal marijuana since May. He came to council to object to a proposed bylaw that would restrict medicinal marijuana cultivation to industrial areas.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson/Langley Times

A Langley Township bylaw that would ban medicinal marijuana cultivation on farmland is opposed by a local greenhouse operator who began growing the product in May.

Koch Greenhouses owner Bruce Bakker came to Township council Monday (Dec. 9) to complain the ban was drafted without consulting farmers.

He said the BC Agriculture council, which represents farmers, has told him they were not consulted.

Bakker called the attempt to restrict medicinal marijuana cultivation to industrial areas "troubling."

"What's next?" Bakker said.

"Are you going go after the wine industry which produces alcohol?"

He said the Agricultural Land Commission  (ALC), the provincial agency that regulates farmland, has issued an information bulletin on marijuana production that says the crop is "consistent with the definition of farm use … and as such is an allowed use."

Bakker was speaking at an evening public hearing on the bylaw, which aims to restrict medicinal marijuana cultivation to industrial areas.

He called on council to delay approval until there has been "meaningful consultation" with the BC Agriculture Council which represents farmers, provincial ministry of agriculture staff and other medicinal marijuana producers.

He said he has been operating his greenhouse in the 3300 block of 240 Street for 30 years, mostly producing "indoor ornamental plants" until this May, when he began growing four varieties of medicinal marijuana.

He plans to provide product under new federal laws taking effect in 2014 that will see large-scale medicinal growing facilities replacing the many smaller licensed pot operations across Canada.

His company has invested about $250,000 on marijuana cultivation so far, Bakker said.

Township council is hoping to pass the bylaw limiting legal marijuana production to industrial areas before the new federal laws take effect.

Any Township ban would still have to be approved by the provincial government, which has the final say over the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) which covers 75 per cent of the Township’s 316 square kilometres.

Council was advised in March that the ALC has declared that medical marijuana growing on agricultural land was protected under farming regulations that override the the Township of Langley’s authority.

The ALC was responding to a question from the Vancouver law firm of Bull, Housser and Tupper, which was hired by the Township to review proposed new federal restrictions on medical pot growing.

The legal firm also warned the Township’s ability to regulate medical marijuana growing in the remaining 25 per cent of the community not in the ALR is also limited because federal law takes precedence over municipal regulations.

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