Letter: Rethinking cannabis farming

Letter: Rethinking cannabis farming

The sudden movement on the part of cannabis grow op developers is threatening our way of life,

The following is a letter I sent to the Agricultural Land Commision re the cannabis grow operations currently under consideration in the Armstong/Spallumcheen area.

I am a resident in the lovely valley of Armstrong/ Spallumcheen and am concerned because of what is potentially a serious threat to the health and well being of this beautiful agricultural and residential area.

Myself, as well as the other residents in the area, feel that our rural way of life and the investment we have made in it is under attack. The sudden movement on the part of cannabis grow operation developers, seeking to turn huge profits on agricultural land adjacent to us, is threatening our way of life and the natural habitat that surrounds us.

It appears that these developers are moving swiftly without regulations being followed or the consequences of their developments being taken into account. This letter is to bring forward concerns that these developers of a commercial enterprise are using the ‘right to farm’ act to move ahead in what I believe to be an unlawful manner.

Cannabis growth is currently under the regulation of the Agricultural Land Commission. It must be acknowledged that the growth of a plant crop for commercial, non-medical, non-food use should not be mandated under this act. The recreational cannabis industry is maintaining that they have complete protection under the ‘right to farm act’ and yet they do not fall under the definition as stated in the act and thus should not be mandated under it.

The ‘right to farm act’ can be used when the definition of ‘farm operation’ is met. The cannabis growers do have that right as long as they meet the requirements of ‘normal farm practices’ as stated in the act as follows:

“normal farm practice” means a practice that is conducted by a farm business in a manner consistent with

(a) proper and accepted customs and standards as established and followed by similar farm businesses under similar circumstances, and

(b) any standards prescribed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council

As this clearly states ‘normal farm practice’ presupposes that there are proper and accepted customs and standards established whereby these operations can be regulated. As the growth of recreational cannabis is a new commercial, non-medical, non-food product there are no current established standards that would allow the right to farm in these cases. A moratorium must be put in place until such proper standards are established and any and all effects these operations may have on our environment have been determined. There are many areas of concern such as the effects on the local natural wildlife, the fish streams affected by the large amounts of water pulled from the creeks and groundwater , the water level drop of surrounding established wells, the drainage and waste from such a great amount of water put through the system as well as the possible negative effects on the surrounding residences.

None of this type of applications should be approved under the right to farm act until there are these ‘standards of practice’ established by the provincial government. The acceptance of these applications under the right to farm act is not valid at this time until the proper affected government bodies have evaluated how the farming of cannabis, in what is expected to be huge amounts for both medicinal and/or recreational use, has been determined. Has it been studied how various ministries will be potentially harmed including the Ministry of Fish and Wildlife, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Forest, Land and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operation and Rural Development, the Water Protection and Sustainability Branch, the Ministry of Health and possibly others? It has already been proven that there are grave potential health risks to neighbours of greenhouse cannabis facilities such as those experienced by residents in Langley and surrounding area. All these ministries need to be part of this discussion before such a potentially damaging new industry can be allowed to take over huge sections of our agricultural land base.

There are currently no established standards of practice for a large-scale recreational cannabis grow operations. There is no current thoroughly investigated information of how this new industry (and it is an industry, not an agricultural endeavour) will affect our province.

I urge the Agricultural Land Commission to take the time to study all potential effects of this industry for its own ministry as well as each of the aforementioned ministries is given the opportunity to gain a firm understanding of how they will be affected.

On a further matter pertaining to this, it is clearly stated in the ALC act, Paragraph 20, item #2 that “For the purposes of subsection (1), except as provided in the regulations, the removal of soil and the replacement of fill are non-farm uses.” It is to be noted that the development by Valen Grow Works Corporation who are currently preparing soil on Pleasant Valley road in Armstrong/Spallumcheen have removed acres of topsoil and replaced it with tons of gravel. This has placed them therefore outside of the ALC mandate as in doing so negates their use of the term ‘farm’ according to the Agricultural Land Use act. Therefore any applications they have made to the ALC should be rejected. I request the ALC look into this particular matter.

Also, an application for land to be used for a greenhouse cannabis grow business to be built on agricultural land on Whitaker Rd. , and also adjacent to Powerhouse Rd, in Spallumcheen should also be closely examined. This developer has already contravened the land and water use on this property, and in so doing has adversely affected his neighbours even before much development has taken place. This is an area where Fish and Wildlife, as well as Water Management, must be contacted as those government agencies will definitely be affected.

To summarize, I strongly request that a moratorium be placed on any and all commercial cannabis grow operations until all the effects of this new industry are studied by all government agencies affected. I also request that the public is made aware of any such operations being planned in their vicinity and that they are allowed to have input into such ventures that will adversely affect their health and well being as well as their property values.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I await your response.

Ruth Martens