Opinion

Editorial: Odds on keeping marijuana growers out of ALR gone to pot?

The campaign to keep medicinal marijuana out of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in Langley Township may be in trouble.

Township council wants to restrict the practice to industrial areas because there are concerns about the potential loss of arable farmland to fortress-like growing operations and the likelihood those operations could be targeted by criminals, given the number of so-called “grow rips” of the much smaller cultivations currently allowed.

Council has approved a bylaw that bans medical pot growing within the protected farmland that covers three-quarters of the Township, but there are signs the new regulation may not get the necessary approval from the province.

The provincial Agricultural Land Commission, the agency that has the final say over regulation of the ALR in the Township, has already declared legal grows ops to be a permitted use.

And the provincial agriculture minister who will decide whether the new bylaw takes effect has, to date, been silent on the subject.

Now, this week, comes word that at least eight Langley businesses are lining up for the new federal growing licences that will become available in the new year when the law changes from the current practice of small growing operations to larger commercial-scale plants.

Seven of the eight would-be Langley growers are within the ALR.

The only one to go public so far has been the Koch greenhouse, which has already begun growing marijuana and whose owner says the entirely legal product is simply another flowering plant as far as he is concerned.

Bruce Bakker has been operating his greenhouse for the past 30 years, which means no farmland will be lost if he gets his federal licence.

He already takes precautions against criminal activity to prevent theft of equipment.

If the bylaw wins provincial approval, the Township will be in the position of trying to impose an after-the-fact restriction on a grower who set up his business when there was no ban.

That could conceivably land the Township in court.

There is also the example of Maple Ridge to consider.

That community has opted to take exactly the opposite approach, passing a bylaw that bans medicinal marijuana from commercial areas and limiting it to farmland.

It is likely the provincial government will take note of that when it considers the Langley proposal.

All things considered, the odds don’t appear to be in Langley’s favour.

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