We’ve long been in favour of the idea of legalizing marijuana, something that will officially come to pass in Canada this July.
There has always been strong argument for this move. It will take profits from pot out of the hands of organized crime and put them into the hands of governments in the form of taxes. It will make it much easier for those who use the herb for medicinal purposes to buy it.
There is a potential unintended consequence that’s of concern right now, however, and that’s the eating up of prime farmland for grow-op bunkers.
A new organization has formed at the grassroots called Citizens Protecting Agricultural Land, prompted by concerns over farmland purchases where the new owners plan to build huge greenhouses with concrete floors — essentially paving over prime growing land — to grow B.C. bud instead.
One cannot blame the farmers, many of whom are aging out of the industry, who see a chance to cash out their biggest asset, their land, to big marijuana producers. And the producers, of course, see a chance to get in on a lucrative new market.
But farmland really shouldn’t be where these businesses should locate. Most commercial grow-ops are done under controlled conditions, meaning the crops aren’t planted out in the fields under the sky. So they also don’t need to go on agricultural land, not matter how attractive such land (already cleared, mostly flat, tax benefits) may be.
Farmland sacrificed to this purpose is taken out of production of food. We already import far too much of our food in B.C.; we need to grow (pun intended) the industry, not curtail it further.
Every level of government needs to start being proactive about this coming issue. The Agricultural Land Reserve needs to address it, and local governments need to look at their zoning. A few rules now can nip the problem in the bud.