Would-be commercial pot growers worry their business plans will go up in smoke if the City of Kelowna bans marijuana production on agricultural land.
Proponents say their considerable investments of time and money will be wasted if council today accepts a staff recommendation to permit legal grow-ops only in industrial zones.
"It just doesn't make good sense to recommend that an agricultural product cannot be grown in an agricultural zone," say Marlys and Grant Wolfe, owners of Falcon Ridge Farms.
Farmland properties have "low overhead and (a greater) ability to expand" pot production compared to industrially zoned properties, says Kevin Carta, founder of A Better Choice Medicinals.
At this afternoon's council meeting, the City of Kelowna is expected to follow other municipalities and restrict federally licensed marijuana growing operations only to industrial lands.
Industrial properties are said by municipal staff to be a better spot for indoor marijuana properties than farmlands for a variety of reasons.
These include the possible negative impact on adjacent farms, limited potential for
re-purposing the property if the marijuana production business shuts down, the necessity of building other structures on farmland
to support marijuana growing, and possible conflicts with nearby residential areas.
Under looming changes to federal drug
law, all licences currently issued for the growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes within private residences will expire March 31.
After that date, marijuana can only be legally grown by commercial operators who have been federally licensed. Individual municipalities have the authority to say where the operations can located.
The Falcon Ridge Farm owners say they've been working toward getting a commercial licence to grow marijuana for two years.
"We applied for the commercial licence for medical marijuana as it would be a good
additional organic produce for the health products we already grow, produce and offer for sale on our farm," they say.
They say they're surprised and dismayed the city may choose to restrict such operations to industrial land.
"Why would this be allowed in any other zone before the zone for which agriculture was intended?" they ask in a letter to council.
Last week, Lake Country also took steps to prevent legalized marijuana growing operations from opening on farmland.
An active industrial zone is better suited for such operations, Lake Country Mayor James Baker said, because byproducts such as smell and the noise from venting fans would be less likely to bother adjacent landowners.