Islands Trust moving forward on cannabis amendments to land-use bylaw

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, June 12 2019

The land-use regulations on where cannabis may be grown, or sold, on Gabriola are being examined under one of the Local Trust Committee’s projects.

While the federal and provincial governments have control over licensing and industry regulation of cannabis, local governments have been delegated zoning authority from the Province of BC, through the Local Government Act (LGA), to regulate the location, size, and siting of cannabis businesses and cannabis-related land use activities. The Islands Trust, specifically the Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC), has that zoning authority on Gabriola.

As such, the LTC has requested staff to prepare a draft bylaw to amend the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw to provide definitions of terms and whatever regulations might be needed for the island.

Ann Kjerulf, Regional Planning Manager for the Islands Trust Northern Office is responsible for the project.

She explained there are current terms and regulations within the LUB which date back to the medical marihuana (sic) regulations.

“We want to update and align with the current regulations.”

Trustees asked if there have been any applications for sales or other cannabis activities.

Kjerulf said the Northern office has received one notice of application for Gabriola within the past year of a federal license application. 

There have been no referrals for applications for non-medical cannabis retail sales.

Kjerulf explained after the May 16 LTC meeting cannabis sales would be considered a retail sales use notwithstanding the need for a provincial license to sell cannabis. 

Retail sales are permitted in the Village Commercial (VC)1, VC2, District Commercial 1 (DC1), Tourist Commercial 1 (TC1) and TC2 zones. 

“Part of the land use bylaw review to consider cannabis sales as a distinct use should include confirming whether or not cannabis sales should be considered a retail use or a distinct type of retail use and in which zones, if any, the sale of cannabis should be permitted.”

Kjerulf noted the sale of liquor is excluded from retail sales in the TC1 and TC2 zones.

“So the question arises as to whether or not cannabis sales should be permitted in these two zones. Furthermore, the local trust committee could consider whether or not a temporary use permit or rezoning should be required for cannabis sales.”

In terms of the home occupation regulations, those currently allow limited cannabis sales in conjunction with a personal service home occupation, where the area used for storage and display of associated product sales does not exceed 5 square metres. 

“Of course, prior to issuance of a retail license, the Province will seek concurrence from the Local Trust Committee.  The Local Trust Committee has established a process for evaluating applications for non-medical cannabis retail sales (whether they would occur in a commercial zone or in a residential zone) so inevitably there will be opportunities for public input on such applications”

As of May 2019, an announcement came out that any new applicants to the federal government for licenses would need a fully built site which meets all required regulations.

Kjerulf said the reason that was put into place was after an investigation found more than 70% of previous applicants had not substantially proceeded past the initial application process.

Trustee Scott Colbourne asked about the addition of a general prohibition of cannabis production for all zones except in Agriculture.

Kjerulf said the previous land-use-bylaw regulations stated cannabis production was allowed in the Agricultural zone.

“Because it was specifically allowed in Agriculture, it was not allowed in the other zones, because it was a stated specific use [in Agriculture].

“Having said that, we could have been more clear by specifying a prohibition that it is not a permitted use. I anticipate there should be further discussion about narrowing the zones where, if any, you would want cannabis production allowed.

“I would note light industry [does allow production, and production definition is broad. If you’re going to prohibit something, you need to be specific.”

Colbourne said his concern with cannabis production is the impact it would have on land which is useful for food production, and food security, 

“Someone involved in vegetable production will make much less money.”

Kjerulf said the intent with updating the Gabriola Island Land Use Bylaw is to be consistent with federal and provincial legislation and also to ensure that the LUB is consistent with the Official Community Plan.

“Staff don’t anticipate deviating from the previous direction, which was to limit production to lands within the ALR, pursuant to the ALC’s regulations. However, the project is in its early stages and, as the process unfolds, further information including input from the public, agencies and others will undoubtedly help to inform proposed LUB amendments.”

In her report, Kjerulf notes that there are province-wide regulations in place for land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Storing, packing, preparing or processing cannabis can be undertaken without a non-farm use application to the Agricultural Land Commission if the cannabis has been produced in a manner consistent with the ALR Use regulations and at least 50% of the cannabis being stored, packed, prepare or processed is produced on the farm. If less than 50% of the cannabis is produced on the farm or cannabis production is inconsistent with the ALR Use regulations, a non-farm use application to the ALC is required.

Trustees approved the project going forward.  A follow-up report from staff at a future LTC meeting will be the next step.