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'Farm'aceuticals coming to BC?
The Agricultural Land Commission has ruled it is legal to grow medical marijuana on the Agricultural Land Reserve, opening the door for growers to add a second crop to their farms.
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University of Mississippi
BC Bud Coming to a Farm Near You?
Medical marijuana crops similar to this one at a US government facility may be soon growing in BC, after a ruling by the Agricultural Land Commission.
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Legal BC Bud a Cash Crop for Fruit Growers?
Eight companies have already applied to grow marijuana in Langley after a ruling by the Agricultural Land Commission; seven of those are in the ALR.
The term ‘BC Bud’ could gain new life as berry farmers and orchardists consider supplementing their seasonal income by growing medical marijuana.
The BC Agriculture Council is demanding the BC government support the growing of medical marijuana on agricultural land.
President Rhonda Driediger says fruit growers are definitely thinking about it, despite growing controversy in farmbelt towns like Langley and Kelowna.
“I think some of us are just watching to see the changes happening before we make a decision one way or the other,” says Rhonda Driediger. “Some people I know are definitely looking at doing this, but most are waiting and watching to see what the economic returns are going to be.
“I mean, the government has said it’s legal, it’s a legitimate crop, but is it economic for us to do? I think the jury is out on that one, and we’re looking for more information.”
The question came up after the Agricultural Land Commission ruled it is okay for farmers to grow medical marijuana on the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The ALC ruled in August that marijuana growing for medical use is “consistent with the definition of ‘farm use’ under the ALC Act,” for land owners who are legally licensed to do so.
That touched off a political firestorm that is still raging in farm communities across BC, but particularly in Langley, Delta, Kelowna and Abbotsford.
The mayors of those four cities want to ban marijuana cultivation in the ALR, and restrict it to industrial zones.
Langley Mayor Jack Froese, who runs a turkey farm, told the Vancouver Sun marijuana cultivation isn’t appropriate for rural neighbourhoods.
““It’s not that I want to stop it, but let’s treat it like any other industry,” said Froese. “Others see it as purely an agricultural industry, and that’s a difference of opinion. We will be asking the minister to make a decision on that.”
Froese is concerned marijuana growing will be a nuisance for neighbours, and more seriously, a target for criminal gangs. “We had homicides in the Township of Langley related to drug ripoffs,” he said.
Driediger, a strawberry grower, says she and other farmers are baffled by the municipal response.
“It’s insane, and everybody is up in arms about it,” she said. “I told (Agriculture Minister) Pat Pimm that the mayor of Langley is out of control on this one. Why wouldn’t you want it out here?
“I mean, I have six neighbours spread out over thousands of acres, and now you want to put it in an area where it can affect thousands of people? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Driediger also points out, growing is what farmers do. “The government has said this is a legal crop, and we have thousands upon thousands of acres and hundreds of highly qualified agrologists to do the growing.”
Only one farmer, Bruce Bakker of Koch Greenhouses, has gone public to say he wants to grow medical marijuana, but in Langley eight other people or companies have applied, and seven of those are in the ALR.
That has alarmed Langley town council, but Driediger says it just makes sense.
“You take me for example,” said Driediger, a berry farmer. “I probably have 25,000 square feet in my barn, so I could grow a heck of a lot of marijuana in the off season when that building sits empty and inactive for nine months out of the year..
“So, you can see the sense of it, and it just so happens I’m really good at growing things.”
Driediger does agree there is a security issue, but argues that security issue would be just as prevalent on industrial land. Either way, she says, “It’s a question of adding security.”
Not all municipalities are opposing medical marijuana. Maple Ridge, for example, has done exactly the opposite by restricting marijuana growing to only the Agricultural Land Reserve. Their reasoning is that marijuana production is better left to farmers on land that is far away from the urban population.
Pimm has not responded to the request, and has said he will comment on the issue after bylaws are passed in the four affected communities.
For her part, Driediger and the BCAC are urging the minister to support the Commission’s ruling.
“We are farmers, and this is what we do,” she said. “Medical marijuana is a legal crop, approved by the federal government, and the local town council should not be telling us what we can grow, and what we can’t.”