MediJean has a medical marijuana research facility in Richmond and is seeking a Health Canada licence to produce medical pot commercially.

Marijuana bunkers called waste of Canada’s best farmland

Metro Vancouver cities want safeguards but can't keep medical pot out of Agricultural Land Reserve

The province’s decision to allow heavily fortified medical marijuana production factories to be built on top of good agricultural farmland isn’t sitting well with municipal politicians.

Several Lower Mainland cities wanted the new commercial pot producers that are being licensed by the federal government to be relegated to industrial land, arguing the high-security buildings would be a better fit there.

Instead, the provincial government decided over the summer they will be allowed to be built on farmland, including in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The main concession from the province is that they’ll be taxed at the industrial property tax rate not at the lower agricultural rate.

Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese said one concern now is that cities will end up paying more for police to monitor sleepy agricultural roads for criminals that may be attracted to the new pot ventures.

“We really need to ensure the safety of our  residents,” he said, adding there are also implications for the environment, infrastructure and roads.

The province has tabled proposed guidelines for local municipalities to regulate the new marijuana producers and has asked for comment on them.

Froese said cities are now seeking the strongest possible protections.

“We want to deal with things like setbacks, hedging and air quality,” he said.

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves insists it’s senseless to waste “the best farmland in Canada” on highly fortified bunkers that could have been placed in industrial zones.

“This is not soil-based agriculture,” he told Metro Vancouver’s Oct. 10 board meeting. “It’s not even greenhouse-type agriculture like you get in Delta and Richmond. It’s totally enclosed.”

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan argued they will be “twice as bad as greenhouses” and will detract from the cooperative spirit of local agriculture.

“If a marijuana operation becomes your next door neighbour, it’s certainly not going to be a very collegial relationship,” Corrigan said. “You’re not going to be borrowing each other’s tractors.”

Some cities have sought legal opinions on whether they can ban marijuana producers from ALR land despite the province’s decision, but Froese said he doesn’t believe that would be viable because pot producers would be protected under B.C.’s Right to Farm Act.

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