Frustrations with fed gov’t surface over cannabis regulations in Agassiz

(File Photo)

Frustrations over current cannabis operations within District of Kent, in BC’s Fraser Valley, surfaced during a recent council meeting.

On Dec. 13, councillors voted in favour of bylaw 1683, which allows the district to exercise more regulation over properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve with cannabis operations and limited indoor micro-cannabis cultivation facilities. Coun. Duane Post voted no on the third reading and adoption of the bylaw.

These facilities would need to be federally and provincially licensed, have a valid District of Kent business licence, provide stormwater and waste management plans and be required to fall within zoning limits in order to operate.

Several residents spoke during the public meeting leading up to the vote, many of whom were frustrated with the current grow operations throughout the district. Residents were angered by strong odours and unsightly, often-unattended structures at the grow ops.

Peter Ten Bos said there are six major operations near his home.

“It’s interfering with family life,” Ten Bos said. “The operations basically have one caretaker, all fenced in, it’s unsightly, there’s a terrible odour. We’re against it, totally against it.”

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Barbara Ten Bos, Peter’s wife, also spoke.

“It’s just an ugly compound that no one lives in,” she said. “We ourselves are sick of it because it surrounds us, the smell is terrible and it doesn’t do anything for the community. I’m against any further operation of that type.”

James Ens of Pioneer Avenue had similar complaints with cannabis operations growing nearby. He was also concerned about the use of ALR land for non-soil grow operations, given the need for future food security and the need to ease pressure on the existing land base.

Coun. Stan Watchorn said while the district can receive and address complaints to a certain degree, enforcement on complaints and the relevant regulations falls within federal jurisdiction rather than municipal.

CAO Wallace Mah said the RCMP are equally frustrated at the federal government’s handling of licensing. Mah said it’s difficult for law enforcement to differentiate between legal and illegal operations as the locations of legal operations aren’t disclosed to the RCMP.

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“They have to be on high alert,” Mah said. “They have to make sure they have an emergency response team. They don’t know what they’re going to encounter – vicious dogs, explosives. The (federal) government has not done anything to improve the situation. Everything we’ve heard this evening is really beyond our control. All we can control is what is outline in the report today.”

Several members of council sympathized with the grievances from residents, feeling their hands were tied due to federal regulations.

“I wish I had a solution,” Watchorn said. “We will continue to look for those.”

“It’s frustrating being in local government when you’re mandated by the province and federal government,” Post said. “There’s nothing about (the federal grow operations) that we’re proud about. They’re not community-minded, and the list goes on. I’m tired of it.”

“I have one close to me,” Mayor Sylvia Pranger added. “I know what this can be like.I don’t like it, but the federal government hands out these licenses without any input from us. It’s grossly unfair of the federal government to do that to a community and not find ways for us to regulate that.”

Coun. Susan Spaeti confirmed the Kent Agricultural Advisory Committee supported this bylaw.

In the council highlights for the Dec. 13 meeting, district officials listed multiple objectives when putting this bylaw into action:

– Not frustrating federal law

– Locally addressing concerns about noise, odour, vapour and light pollution

– Minimizing impacts on farm uses on ALR land

– Ensuring regulations fall within the standards of the Minster of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries’ bylaws

The council approved sending a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the federal government’s past commitment to sharing revenue prior to the legalization of cannabis.

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