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Medical Marijuana: Farm Use under the Agricultural Land Commission Act
Posted in Municipal Law

The Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation (the “Regulation”) was amended on May 7, 2015 to identify federally licensed medical marijuana production under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (Canada) (the “MMPR”) as a farm use in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This amendment will allow local governments to regulate, but not prohibit, licenced medical marijuana production within the ALR.

Following the coming into force of the MMPR in 2013, many local governments in B.C. introduced bylaw amendments to regulate medical marijuana production in their communities and also sought direction from the provincial government on whether medical marijuana could be prohibited in the ALR. In June of 2014, the B.C. government issued a release clarifying that medical marijuana production in the ALR is allowable. The B.C. government has now formalized its position by amending the Regulation to recognize federally licensed medical marijuana production as a farm use in the ALR.  This amendment recognizes and respects the federal government’s policy and legislation regarding medical marijuana production while also providing consistent rules for communities throughout British Columbia.

The Ministry of Agriculture has also developed a corresponding Bylaw Standard following consultation with local governments, agriculture producers and stakeholders. The Bylaw Standard is designed to ensure as much land as possible in the ALR is used for agricultural purposes, while balancing the needs of communities and other legislation. The Bylaw Standard does not impact licensed facilities outside of the ALR.

The Bylaw Standard establishes the limits to which local governments can restrict the production of medical marijuana in the ALR, and provides local governments with ready-to-use bylaw provisions.  The following provisions are contained in the Standard Bylaw:

  • Have a minimum setback of no more than 30 metres from any watercourse;
  • Have a maximum lot coverage of no less than 35%, and a maximum height of no less than 15 metres;
  • Have a minimum setbacks between 15 and 30 metres (at the local government’s discretion) from any property line;
  • Have a minimum setback of no more than 30 metres from any neighbouring residential use outside of the ALR if a buffer is used, and 60 metres if a buffer is not used. (Buffers can combine separation, vegetation and fencing to mitigate the impacts of farming and urban activities.);
  • Have a minimum setback of no more than 150 metres from any neighbouring park and school;
  • Require a storm water and agricultural liquid waste management plan if the facility is larger than 3700 square metres, or if it covers more than 10% of the lot;
  • The Bylaw Standard also includes a provision that there should not be a minimum lot size requirement for medical marijuana production facilities.

The Ministry of Agriculture intends to work with local governments so that they may align local bylaws with the new provincial regulations.  It is expected that all local government bylaws will be consistent with the Regulation and the Bylaw Standard by early fall of 2015.

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