Health Canada can't disregard Delta's bylaws, says council

Council angered licence granted for hemp grower despite activity contravening city's bylaw

The City of Delta is moving to shut down an outdoor industrial hemp grow operation in Tsawwassen.

Council on Monday voted in favour of a staff recommendation that, effective immediately, the owner of and lease holder of a farm in 5700-block of 6th Avenue be ordered to remove the hemp currently under cultivation and follow the city’s bylaws.

Mayor George Harvie will also send a letter to the federal health minister asking that Health Canada require all applications provide proof of compliance with municipal zoning prior to renewal or issuance of a licence for the production of industrial hemp or cannabis.

The city has been flooded with complaints from residents near the farm, zoned for farming, but not in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which homeowners say is creating a nauseating odour.

Formerly referred to as the Guichon property, but now owned by a numbered company, the 19 hectare (47 acre) property, immediately east of the Forest by the Bay subdivision and adjacent to the Southlands and Beach Grove Golf Club, has a licence from Health Canada that allows the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp.

Council on Monday expressed dismay that a federal licence was issued.

Coun. Lois Jackson said it shows a continued disregard by the federal government of local governments, while Coun. Dylan Kruger said he’s beside himself that Delta’s bylaws were not considered.

Harvie said he spoke at length with Delta MP Carla Qualtrough on the matter and he’s hoping a conversation will be arranged directly with the minister of health.

A report to council pointed out a delegation of residents made a presentation two years ago conveying concerns regarding potential future agricultural uses of the property, specifically industrial greenhouses and cannabis.

In response to a follow-up staff report, council directed staff to prepare a bylaw to amend the zoning of the property to establish special regulations to address potential impacts of certain more intensive forms of agriculture on surrounding urban neighbourhoods.

Subsequently, discussions ensued with the property owner as well as neighbouring residents on appropriate types of farming on the property.

The owner continued to lease the property for soil-based farming and in 2020 planted the industrial hemp under the federally-issued licence.

A rezoning bylaw for the site had not yet been brought forward for council consideration. Notwithstanding, since the site is not located within the ALR, the current agricultural zoning prohibits all forms of cannabis production, including the cultivation of industrial hemp, the report states.

“There are other farms in Delta growing industrial hemp although they are within the Agricultural Land Reserve and at a greater distance from residences. As this is the first instance of a complaint about the cultivation of industrial hemp being raised, staff have been investigating the legal framework around its cultivation with specific reference to the property at 5761 6 Ave which is not in the Agricultural Land Reserve,” the report explains.

“While Delta's Zoning Bylaw is clear in prohibiting the production of any type of cannabis outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the legal framework is nonetheless complex as other levels of government either regulate or confer rights that may be in conflict with local bylaws and regulations. Provincially, the rights outlined in the Provincial Right-to-Farm Act apply to both land in the Agricultural Land Reserve as well as land zoned for agricultural use. Federally, Health Canada regulates industrial hemp through a licensing process that does not invite local government input nor require the applicant to provide evidence of local bylaw compliance.”

The report also notes the owner was given verbal and written warnings that the cultivation of hemp is not a permitted use of the property.

There may be some relief to the current odour situation as it is expected the hemp crop should be harvested soon, the report adds.

© Delta Optimist