Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jan 2018
Source: Richmond News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018, Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Author: Eve Edmonds


Of course growing tomatoes, cucumbers and the like is a legitimate use
of agricultural land. After all, the Agricultural Land Reserve was
created to do just that. Right?

Hmm, well kinda. The fact is tomatoes et al tend to be grown in
greenhouses and those greenhouses are built by covering acres of prime
agricultural land with slabs of concrete, which are then enclosed and
outfitted with elaborate lighting, heating and watering systems.

In fact, they're more warehouse than they are farm.

Regardless, they've been allowed, which, I guess, can be justified
because at least they're producing food. But how do we feel about
covering acres of prime agricultural land with slabs of concrete to
grow marijuana?

City council is not exactly high on the idea and is making a pitch to
ensure marijuana greenhouses are only allowed in areas zoned industrial.

That makes sense for a few reasons: One, a greenhouse is a greenhouse,
not a farm. Two, the city can charge industrial zone taxes, which are
higher than agricultural. And, three, these greenhouses are not
producing food.

The problem is precedence.

We've already allowed greenhouses on ALR land. In other words, the
land has long-been paved, so does it really matter what's being grown?

Some have argued we can get around this by growing cannabis outdoors,
that way our fertile land is being used to grow a high yielding crop
that's not mega mansions or warehouses.

But outdoor pot, apparently, is of a poorer quality and, ironically,
leaves, in some cases, a greater carbon footprint. A greenhouse, where
plants can be stacked, requires vastly less space than an outdoor crop
and is better able to recycle water, nutrients and solar power.

And then there's the issue of theft.

If we have people stealing pumpkins out of farmers' fields, I can only
image what acres of pot plants could attract.

So, if cannabis is best grown in greenhouses, the question is where to
put those greenhouses and how to regulate them.

On regulation: this is a new industry, hence, we should expect new,
higher-than-ever environmental standards. Gone are the days when
growers had to operate bunker-style, clandestine facilities, which
consumed huge amounts of electricity. Now we've brought this industry
into the light, let's use that light - solar power speaking.

On where to put them: Industrial land makes sense. The tricky part
will be not getting fooled, again. What's to stop a producer from
applying to build a greenhouse to grow food, then, once everything's
built, claim it's not feasible and pressure the city to change its
zoning. Sound familiar? In fact, this already appears to be happening
(see page 19).

Point being, council has a valid argument for keeping cannabis
production in industrial zones. But to make that happen, it will have
to push uphill on a slippery slope, given it has already allowed,
greenhouses, ice wine and golf courses.
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MAP posted-by: Matt