Grow-op decision bad news for Langley

Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese. - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

A Langley Township bylaw that would restrict medicinal marijuana cultivation to industrial areas and ban it altogether on farmland has been rejected by the provincial government.

The Township was informed of the decision in a June 24 letter from Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. The letter said he would not approve the proposed Township regulation banning medical marijuana growing in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which covers 75 per cent of the Township’s 316 square kilometres.

The letter arrived several months after the Agricultural Land Commission  (ALC), the provincial agency that regulates farmland, issued an information bulletin on marijuana production that said the crop is “consistent with the definition of farm use … and as such is an allowed use.”

Letnick said the ministry of agriculture supports the ALC position, and “the ministry’s policy position is that medical marijuana production in the ALR should not be prohibited by local governments.”

Mayor Jack Froese called the decision “unfortunate.”

“We recognize there is a need for medical marijuana, but these are intensive operations that our council feels are better suited for industrial areas,” Froese said in a written statement.

“We were looking forward to being able to control them in a location where they could be properly regulated.”

Under the new federal marijuana growing regulations that took effect this year, small grow-ops in residential areas have been replaced with bigger commercial-style grow-ops.

There are 19 proposed commercial grow ops in the Township, most of them to be located in the ALR.

When the Township first proposed its ban, one of the growers came to council to complain the law was drafted without consulting farmers.

Koch Greenhouses owner Bruce Bakker 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 producing four varieties of medicinal marijuana.

The provincial government did have some good news for the Township, however, announcing medical grow-ops in the ALR will be excluded from farm classification for assessment and property tax purposes and will be taxed at the full industrial rate, rather than the substantially lower farm rates.

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