Glen Valley residents raised concerns over a local marijuana growing operation with elected leaders at a town hall meeting Wednesday night.
There were only about 35 to 40 residents in the audience, but a number of them had come specifically to ask about commercial cannabis operations, with moderator Frank Bucholtz fielding numerous questions on the topic.
Residents were concerned about everything from odour and excessive nighttime light from the greenhouses, to the possible impact of water use on the local aquifer. One also asked for a moratorium on new cannabis growing operations in the Township.
Mayor Jack Froese noted that provincial regulations have much more weight than local rules – and that the Township can’t ban cannabis growing.
The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) ruled cannabis was a farm product several years ago, which means it can be grown anywhere in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The Township tried to confine growing to industrial land and lost that battle.
Other types of farming that can cause odours or lights, such as hothouse tomato growing or mushroom farming, are regulated based on “normal farm practices.”
“Cannabis production is so new, we don’t know what normal farm practice is,” Froese said.
On water use, Langley MLA Mary Polak noted that an agricultural operation would need a water license from the Ministry of Forests and Lands.
“They live and breathe water allocation in that department,” she said. If water is scarce, the rule is that residential use comes first, then maintenance of animals.
Langley East MLA Rich Coleman said he would be talking to the Glen Valley Cannabis operators.
He also noted that the federal laws, as written, give no leeway for odour, and says growers have to control it.
“The federal act needs to be enforced,” Coleman said, citing complaints about a different large-scale cannabis operation, that of Canopy Growth near Zero Avenue and 264th Street.
“This thing has just moved so fast,” Coleman said. “The enforcement side needs to be beefed up.”
Growing operations that can’t control odours should be shut down, Coleman said to applause from the audience.
Coleman left the meeting briefly several times, and at the end told the audience that he had reached out to Canopy Growth. He was told that shades that cut down on light at night are computer controlled and should be automatically close.
Coleman advised local residents to take photos if there were issues with light, and said he didn’t believe local growers have done enough to control odour.