Delta mayor worried cannabis ‘green rush’ on agricultural land could kill farming

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson fears prime agricultural land will be overrun with greenhouses once legalization is in place.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson fears prime agricultural land will be overrun with greenhouses once legalization is in place. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty, File)

Delta’s mayor says she’s worried that once cannabis is legalized, her city’s legacy of food farming will go up in smoke.

Cannabis will become legal on Oct. 17, and Lois Jackson says once that happens there’s nothing barring pot growers from snapping up prime agricultural land.

She’s calling on the province to step in with regulations to protect farmland for food production.

LISTEN: Cannabis agriculture and food production

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Speaking on CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show, she said such a ‘green rush’ could radically reshape Delta’s identity as a breadbasket for the region.

“We’ve got probably 24,000 acres of farm land in Delta,” she said. “Around 500 acres is under glass at the moment.”

“We just feel that the possibility and potential to displace these food crop areas with the growth of cannabis is very, very high.”

Jackson argued that just five per cent of B.C. land is suitable for farming, and just 1.5 per cent of the province could be considered “prime” farmland.

She said the prospect of that land being glassed-in or paved over for industrial-style cannabis production should be alarming for the region from a food security perspective.

But she said the amount of money being thrown around is high enough that it could lead to the end of a farming community in Delta.

“It’s pretty tempting, you know, when you have somebody with big, deep pockets come along and just buy you out,” she said.

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WATCH: Aldergrove residents complain about huge pot farm

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Aldergrove residents complain about huge pot farm

“If you’ve been a farmer for years and years, and maybe your kids don’t want to farm, and whatever the case, it looks pretty good when you’ve got all that money sitting on the table.

“If you don’t have farmers out there farming, you won’t have a farming industry anymore.”

Jackson said Delta is already home to a medical marijuana facility on the industrially-zoned Annacis Island, a model she said she’d like to see growers restricted to.

Jackson is not alone in her concerns.

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The Union of British Columbia Municipalities has called for a moratorium on cannabis production on agricultural land until municipal governments can be consulted and the idea reviewed.

Metro Vancouver’s Mayors Committee has also raised serious concerns about the use of farmland to produce cannabis, with the issue earning spirited debate on Friday.

Concerns include police and fire response capability, managing odour and the disposal of organic waste, along with the loss of food producing land.

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