Linda Delli Santi, president of the BC Greenhouse Growers’ Association, says organization is not concerned about the conversion of greenhouses away from food towards cannabis. (Submitted).

Saanich councillor fears weed could crowd out food as greenhouses convert

Head of provincial association representing greenhouse vegetable farmers not worried about issue

A Saanich councillor fears cannabis could crowd out food production, but the head of the provincial association representing greenhouse vegetable farmers said she is not worried about the issue.

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau raised the issue earlier this month when council started to align the relevant municipal bylaw with provincial regulations concerning the growth of cannabis in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Mersereau said she is “very concerned” about the conversion of greenhouses away from production and towards cannabis, citing data from Delta’s chief police constable Neil Dubord, who spoke at the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference and trade show about the issue.

“He commented that in the first six months of cannabis regulation, 26 per cent of their greenhouses had been converted from food growing crops to cannabis,” she said earlier this month. “So at a provincial level, I’m very concerned about that trend, and I do hope our provincial government is alive to that issue, and perhaps council, that is an area for discussion down the road for possible [Union of British Columbia Municipalities] resolutions,” she said.

But Linda Delli Santi, president of the BC Greenhouse Growers’ Association, is not concerned.

“I’m really not worried at all,” she said. “There is space in the market for both [food growers and cannabis growers].”

She also questioned the numbers that Mersereau cited, noting that her association (which represents 96 per cent of all provincial greenhouse vegetable production) has not recorded such losses.

Delli Santi said 835 square acres of greenhouse space were growing food when the federal government legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018. While a total of 95 acres have converted towards cannabis, the addition of new greenhouses growing food has left the industry “pretty much even” from where it started, she said.

RELATED: Illegal pot still a source for 4 in 10 cannabis users, Stats Can survey shows

RELATED: Saanich to smoke out pot bunkers in Agricultural Land Reserve

While growers can always convert towards cannabis, the real impact of legalization has been on the availability of skilled tradespeople, she said.

Saanich residents, meanwhile, will have a chance to comment on the proposed bylaw changes which staff describe as a “housekeeping” change.

The revised wording confirms cannabis production on lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), but only if the cannabis is produced outdoors in a field; inside a structure with a base consisting entirely of soil; or inside structures approved by the provincial government.

Staff also said the changes would ensure the on-going prohibition of production forms not specifically protected by ALR regulations.

“This would include cannabis grown in concrete-style bunkers and any activities related to that growing (such as the construction, maintenance or operation of a building or structure, or processing of the cannabis),” said Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning.

Coun. Zac de Vries said Saanich — contrary to other municipalities — is trying to be as strict as possible.

“The province is alive to the issue of conversion, and working on options around that,” he said.

Mayor Fred Haynes appeared open to Mersereau’s appeal for more action by way of a UBCM resolution, while noting that the conversion issue is complex.

“Certainly, food is a priority for us in Saanich, and let us see where it lands,” he said.

The Saanich News has reached out Neil Dubord for confirmation and comment.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Semi truck impounded after driver avoids weight scales in Saanich

Driver issued 90-day roadside driving prohibition

Saanich police warn of phone scams ‘spoofing’ phone numbers, asking for money

Informing police of scam calls helps track trends, stop scammers

Hopeful Sidney pot shop owner challenges town in court after application denied

A court petition has been filed against the Town of Sidney

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

POLL: Will you be donating to charities over the holiday season?

Many here in Victoria joined others around the world to take part… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 3

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read