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Medical marijuana production prohibited in Delta

Commercial producers of medical marijuana will be licensed by Ottawa but Delta has prohibited its production in all zones. - File photo
Commercial producers of medical marijuana will be licensed by Ottawa but Delta has prohibited its production in all zones.
— image credit: File photo

Delta Council has approved bylaws that will prohibit the production of medical marijuana anywhere within its boundaries.

Council approved a recommendation on Monday to send a letter to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development requesting an amendment to the Assessment Act that will prohibit the commercial production of medical marijuana from qualifying for farm classification.

Then on Tuesday, council voted 5-0 to prohibit medical marijuana as a permitted use across all zones in the municipality, following a public hearing on the matter. Couns. Scott Hamilton and Robert Campbell were not present.

Deputy planning director Marcy Sangret said the bylaws were introduced separately because bylaws pertaining to property within the Agricultural Land Reserve requires the consent of the provincial minister of agriculture.

"The new methods of producing medical marijuana are coming, there is no question about that," said Coun. Bruce McDonald. "What Delta's intent here is to create a situation where the community has some control of the things that are happening within our community."

He said prohibiting the production of marijuana in zoning bylaws only sets the restriction, but that it can still be permitted by the municipality on a case-by-case basis following a public hearing.

But some speakers were opposed to the new bylaws, arguing it would further push marijuana production underground and into the hands of criminals.

Ralph Howey of Tsawwassen, who ran the South Delta Sensible BC campaign to decriminalize marijuana, said the crop is a billion dollar industry that could help the local economy.

"Why the municipality wants to get involved is beyond me," he said. "It's not your jurisdiction, it's going to be under Health Canada."

Krishna Sangara Hayle of Ladner said her family has a large family-owned warehouse that would benefit from marijuana production. She said with a changing economy, business owners have to find new ways to make money.

"We have a hard time keeping everyone fully employed," she said. "We've got a ton of space that's unused and we're looking for ways to utilize it."

The new bylaws are intended to prepare for a new federal law governing medical marijuana which comes into effect on April 1, essentially ending a program through which an estimated 37,000 grow-ops were permitted across the country. Under the old law, Health Canada could approve applications allowing Canadians to grow their own marijuana to treat medical conditions, but the new rules will restrict licensed growers and order patients to destroy their remaining plants.

Lois Jackson said the Delta Police had previously spent time and resources investigating suspected illegal grow-ops, only to call Health Canada and learn the business was licensed. Under the new law, municipalities and police agencies will be informed of licensed grow-ops, and those businesses will be required to apply for a permit from the local government.

"It's not being it's being banned like it is in many other communities," she said. "I found it very interesting that Vancouver said that marijuana grow-ops should be done in agricultural lands and they don't have any lands at all that are agricultural."

Only one large production facility in Delta is currently licensed to grow marijuana, but its federal license will expire on March 31 and it would be required to apply for approval under the new bylaws. The planning department has indicated a preference that should council approve any new facilities, that they be located in industrial zones.

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