Marijuana has become ‘cannabis’ in North Saanich and producers will have to pay a $500 business license fee, but a discussion on legislative changes turned into a debate on how the District might seek an injunction against the province and Ottawa.
North Saanich Councillor Jack McClintock served notice that he will ask the council at its next meeting to seek a legal opinion from municipal lawyers on whether they are bound by the province’s permitted uses of agricultural land — and the federal government’s legalization of recreational cannabis, for that matter.
McClintock said he’s concerned the province overstepped its direction to municipalities in 2015 when the then-Liberal government made cannabis production a permitted use of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
“… They can prohibit uses on ALR,” he said, “but I don’t believe they have the authority to tell us what we should be doing with the ALR.”
He said he believes it’s incumbent on municipalities to contact legal advisers to see what action can be taken against the province, and find out of an injunction is possible — and extend it to the federal government.
“I think it’s time we have to take a stand on this, and we need to take a legal stand. Our voice has been pretty weak.”
North Saanich’s Chief Administrative Officer noted that staff have been pretty clear that their understanding is B.C. and Ottawa have the legal authority on the matter. Rob Buchan added staff would need council’s direction in order to proceed.
McClintock wasn’t the only one wishing to take action against all forms of cannabis being allowed on ALR land. Mayor Alice Finall said she plans to seeking council’s assent at the next meeting to add its voice to that of Central Saanich and a community group formed to fight cannabis cultivation on farmland.
She said the province’s policy change on ALR land came after the District had already passed a bylaw that would have prohibited the growing of medical marijuana on ALR land. However, she wants North Saanich to write a letter to the province and the federal government, asking that the growing of cannabis not be allowed on ALR land in B.C.
“B.C. is … the only province that has in place a process and laws to protect farmland,” she said, referring to the ALR and her desire to see Ottawa grant the province an exemption, limiting cannabis production to industrial land.
Coun. Murray Weisenberger said a recent Peninsula Agricultural Commission meeting raised the issue as well.
“Some don’t want marijuana, but are they OK with grapes for wine,” he said. “Where do we stand on this? Are we out protecting farmland, or is it something else driving us?”
Coun. Celia Stock said factory cannabis growing is taking place in industrial settings in places like Smith’s Falls, Ontario and Stock wants it to stay on industrial land.
“I feel we have to get the province to change their mind on this,” Stock said. “People don’t want this stuff growing all around them.”
Council, in a 6-1 vote at the committee level, approved bylaws to rename marijuana as cannabis, reflecting expected changes in federal law, and to create a $500 business licence fee for producers of medical or recreational cannabis.
The notices of motion from Finall and McClintock are expected at council’s April 9 committee of the whole meeting.