The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) is preparing for a changing field for the medical marijuana industry, which could eventually result in commercially licensed businesses cropping up in its agricultural land.
The current system of personal use licences and designated licences will be phased out this spring, and new federal licences geared to large scale production and distribution facilities will be established under Health Canada’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation.
While local governments don’t have jurisdiction over land within the Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), there can be some regulatory provisions imposed such as minimum setbacks from property lines or fencing requirements, according to Mark Andison, RDKB general manager of operations.
“Within the ALR, which is essentially a single zone that applies to the agricultural areas of the province, the province of B.C. has established over-arching land use regulations which supersede local governments’ authority to plan and regulate those agricultural lands,” he said. “One of the principal permitted uses in the ALR is agriculture.”
As a result, the regional district is reviewing the zoning bylaw for Electoral Area B –– which includes Genelle, Rivervale, Oasis, Casino, Blackjack, South Belt, Sheep Creek and Patterson –– and Electoral Area D’s community plan (rural Grand Forks) to decide whether or not to establish policies and regulations specific to medical marijuana production facilities.
“Also, they are considering whether these facilities should be limited to agricultural areas or whether they may also be permitted as an industrial use in industrially-zoned areas,” added Andison. “No final decisions have been made to date regarding any new policy or industrial zoning.”
Area B director Linda Worley confirmed that the discussion has been tossed around by the committee reviewing the Official Community Plan.
“This is an ongoing conversation with the province so it will be there decision and they’re not very quick at making that decision, because it is a very high profile and controversial issue,” she said.
To her recollection, about half of Area B’s communities have some farming, but there has yet to be any interest put forward on marijuana production.
The RDKB has received two notices of intent to apply to Health Canada for medical marijuana production licenses, but both are from the Boundary area (Rock Creek and west of Grand Forks).
While there has not been any concerns brought forward locally, Worley said some heard across the province include odour or possible effects from airborne product.
“There’s not enough done on it yet that I can positively say ‘I support or don’t support it,’” she added.
“I’m not ready at this point to say anything.”
Whether or not RDKB’s applicants will be considered viable will be up to Health Canada.
Beginning April 1, medical marijuana production will be considered a farming crop under the Agricultural Land Commission Act and therefore permitted in the ALR, along with related accessory uses such as the drying, processing and packaging of the product.