Richmond cannabis applicant delayed again pending site review, says BC Court of Appeal

| David Brown

The BC Court of Appeal says the city of Richmond does not need to issue a building permit to a cannabis greenhouse seeking to operate on ALR land within the city, pending review of the site.

A BC Court of Appeal judge has accepted a partial appeal from the city of Richmond to a ruling one year ago that said the city must issue the applicant a building permit. 

The ruling from 2020 was based on what the court at the time said was an incorrect interpretation by a city inspector of Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) rules for cannabis production on ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) land. 

The applicant, Linda English, applied for a building permit with the city on May 6, 2019 for a property located at 13751 Garden City Road, Richmond, BC to build a soil-based greenhouse. The property is in BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

At the time of filing the application, all forms of cannabis cultivation were allowed in the ALR.

On September 30, 2019, the director of building approval for Richmond refused Ms. English’s application for a building permit, citing city bylaw 8500 that did not allow the cultivation of non-medical cannabis inside structures constructed after July 13, 2018. 

However, BC’s ALR rules as of July 13, 2018, specifically allowed cannabis production if produced outdoors or inside a structure that has a base consisting entirely of soil, or was constructed or under construction prior to that date. 

The 2019 ALR Regulations also included language that said municipalities could not ban these activities specifically allowed in the ALR.

The city says that the building inspector’s decision was based on his interpretation of the Zoning Bylaw, Building Bylaw, and s. 8 of the 2019 ALR Regulation. The applicant, Ms. English, contended that the city had unfairly denied their application by misinterpretation or misrepresenting these ALR rules. 

The judge in 2020 agreed, declaring that the City of Richmond unreasonably cancelled the building permit application, issued an order quashing the decision of the building inspector, and ordered the city to issue the applicant a building permit.

Although the Court of Appeal judge agreed with part of the ruling from November 2020 that said a Richmond building inspector had misinterpreted the ALC’s rules for cannabis production, he also said that it is still not determined whether the proposed greenhouse does indeed have a “base consisting entirely of soil”.