Trail and District review medical pot rules

Trail and district review Apr. 1 federal legislation geared to large scale medical marijuana production

Medical pot rules under review

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When the federal government rolls out new legislation that will end mom-and-pop pot farms and grow the medical marijuana industry into a commercially licensed business, local jurisdictions won’t have much say in the matter if the plants are rooted in B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

The current system of personal use licences and designated licences will be phased out in a few months, and new federal licences geared to large scale production and distribution facilities will be established under Health Canada’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation.

“Most of the lands that are zoned agricultural in the RDKB are within the ALR,” explained Mark Andison, general manager of operations for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB). “Local governments are not permitted to prohibit “farm use” in the ALR through their zoning regulations.”

No foolin’, beginning April 1, medical marijuana production will be considered a farming crop, and along with related accessory uses such as the drying, processing and packaging of the product, permitted in the ALR.

Locally, the Central Kootenay’s regional district was first on board to endorse the changes when its board passed a resolution last May, confirming medical pot operations would be allowed in areas zoned agricultural or fall within the ALR.

But, according to Andison, no official resolution is required, because licensed medical pot production is permitted by the province’s land statute under the Agricultural Land Commission Act, and local governments do not have any discretion to prohibit that use even if they wanted to.

“There is no reason for the RDKB board to pass a resolution,” he said. “In the RDKB, medical marijuana production is permitted as a form of agriculture and in various agricultural zones within in the region.”

However, part of the regional district’s ongoing review of its long range plans includes consulting with various rural communities to determine whether specific restrictions should be imposed upon this form of agriculture.

Those restrictions may include regulatory provisions such as minimum setbacks from property lines, fencing requirements, or requiring production to move indoors.

“While local governments may impose such restrictions, they may not prohibit the use outright,” he explained. “It is considered to be a bona fide farm use.”

Before applicants can advance a request to Health Canada for a commercial grower’s licence, they must first notify the local government about their intent to submit an application to the federal regulating body.

“We have no way of knowing whether these will be considered viable applications in the eyes of Health Canada,” added Andison.

To date, there are two applicants within the RDKB with high hopes of using the ALR to commercially farm medical marijuana.

One is from the Rock Creek area and the other, from a rural area near Grand Forks.

Although, Trail hasn’t discussed the new Health Canada regulations, the city may have to in the future, because an area on the outskirts of the city is zoned ALR.

“To my knowledge there is only a small area of land within our municipal boundaries that is zoned ALR,” said Michelle McIsaac, Trail’s corporate administrator. “If it were to come up, we would have to examine the new Health Canada regulations for producers and consider how those requirements align with the city’s zoning bylaw.”

Trail’s ALR land is north of Sunningdale toward the city’s northerly boundary, according to McIsaac.

“That said, agricultural uses are presently permitted in the city’s rural holding zones,” she said. “(Those) properties are mostly large, unserviced properties along the outer fringes of the community’s boundaries.”