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Abbotsford's proposed ban on agricultural land grow-ops denied

The province has denied a request to ban grow-ops on ALR land in Abbotsford. - File photo
The province has denied a request to ban grow-ops on ALR land in Abbotsford.
— image credit: File photo

Commercial marijuana grow-ops could come to Abbotsford despite efforts to keep them outside city limits after the province rejected the city’s proposed bylaw to ban grows from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Abbotsford has passed bylaws to keep the new federal system of legal grow-ops off industrial and residential land. The city is one of four B.C. communities that sought a ban in the ALR, but received a letter from the province denying the request.

In a news release last week, the province cautioned cities with plans to ban marijuana producers on agricultural land that they might face constitutional challenges by prohibiting the new system from the ALR.

The province also announced that marijuana producers are now excluded from the list of agricultural uses that qualify for the lower farm tax rate, much like gravel pits and wineries.

A City of Abbotsford news release explains that while the city will not lose property tax revenues from grow-ops, the decision doesn’t address other potential issues such as public safety, fire protection, infrastructure servicing and more.

City manager George Murray said the city is consulting legal counsel to understand the decision and the impact on how municipalities can regulate grow-ops in their communities. A report on how the decision will impact Abbotsford will come to city council in the coming weeks.

Several cities have passed bylaws allowing pot producers to operate only on industrial land, so the buildings don’t effectively pave over productive farmland.

The federal government has so far issued five medical marijuana production licenses in B.C., to operators in Central Saanich, Maple Ridge, Whistler, Nanaimo and Spallumcheen, while hundreds of other applications are under consideration.

In Abbotsford, a company has applied for a business licence to establish a legal grow-op on ALR land on Vye Rd. near Upper Sumas Elementary School.

Council decided on March 31 to hold the application for 90 days, which is allowed if an application is in conflict with a bylaw that is in preparation.

Though commercial grows are being established, the federal government’s shift to commercial growers remains under a legal cloud, awaiting a constitutional challenge launched by Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy on behalf of authorized growers who want to continue home production.

Producers were granted a temporary injunction to continue growing until the case goes before the courts. The federal government has announced plans to appeal the decision allowing the temporary injunction.

- with files from Jeff Nagel

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