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Marijuana production facilities not eligible for farm tax rates

The province is excluding federally-licensed medical marijuana production from the list of agricultural uses that qualify for farm classification for assessment and property tax purposes.

The B.C. Government addressed concerns from municipalities across B.C. regarding the facilities and the potential loss of property tax revenues from the Health Canada licensed facilities.

At the July 14 meeting, Mayor Wayne Stetski said he was happy to see the province took the concerns of municipalities seriously and "plugged that loophole."

"This is good news," Stetski said.

The farm class would offer low land values, reduced tax rates, PST exemption and exemptions on farm buildings up to 87.5 per cent of value.

The province noted that licensed facilities can be located on both provincial Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land and non-ALR lands, subject to government zoning and other regulations.

While medical marijuana production is consistent with the province's definition of a farm use under the Agricultural Land Commission Act, the drug is classified as a federally-regulated narcotic, so properties won't be eligible for farm-classification for property tax purposes.

The ALR already includes approved activities that are not eligible for the farm classification. Some of those include farm or ranch tourism operations, sand and gravel extraction operations, and winery and cider facilities.

The province also noted that municipalities, such as Pitt Meadows, looking to enact bylaws prohibiting medical marijuana production "may wish to seek legal counsel as enacting such a bylaw may give rise to a constitutional challenge as frustrating a lawful initiative of the federal government."

Coun. Bob Whetham said the taxation issue was positive, but the reference to the ALR was a "red herring".

"The requirements for one of those industrial buildings, if I remember correctly, is you have to have power, water and so on," Whetham said. "If you look on agricultural lands, most of them are not located around places where those services are available."

He said he welcomed the news, but found it strange that they brought the ALR into it.

There have been five licenses issued by the federal government in Central Saanich, Maple Ridge, Whistler, Nanaimo and Spallumcheen.

Coun. Gerry Warner asked if the city had received any applications for a local production facility, but CAO Wayne Staudt said it is confidential until a license is issued.

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