Richmond cannabis facility can now operate greenhouse

A controversial cannabis grow facility in Richmond has received a Health Canada permit for the first of two 78,000-square-foot greenhouses.

Emerald Health Therapeutics, near No. 9 Road and Westminster Highway, covers 20-acres of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and features two greenhouses and a licensed outdoor grow area.

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The company had already received permission in July to grow and harvest cannabis crops on the 12-acre outdoor cultivation area.

Construction on the two greenhouses came to a halt in 2017 after the City of Richmond denied Dr. Avtar Dhillon, Emerald’s president, the building permits and issued a stop-work order.

The city suspected that Dhillon might use the greenhouses for medical cannabis production, which was outlawed by the city on ALR lands in 2003. The city lost its case in court last year.

Emerald can begin commercial greenhouse production at the site, with planting to start immediately, according to an announcement made by the company earlier this week.

The Oct. 15 announcement comes as Canada marks one year since cannabis was legalized.

The first greenhouse harvest is expected by January 2020, while the first of the outdoor cannabis crops was recently harvested. A harvest from an adjacent 12-acres of outdoor grow area has also been secured.

“With planting starting now, the Metro Vancouver organic operation is well positioned to be a significant contributor to Emerald’s financial results in 2020,” said Riaz Bandali, Emerald’s chief executive officer, in a press release.

Emerald also plans to get to work on a permit for the second of the two greenhouses.

Medical cannabis production was outlawed on ALR lands in 2003, when the city amended its zoning bylaws.

This later came into conflict with the province’s May 2015 decision to allow federal medical cannabis production on the ALR.

And last year, the city lost against Emerald in the B.C. Supreme Court, after the company initiated a case following the stop-work order and permit denial.

The August 2018 decision found Richmond’s zoning bylaws to be inconsistent with provincial ALR rules, and that the city could not prohibit a farm use that ALR regulations specifically allow.

However, in July 2018, the province did announce that local and First Nations governments could prohibit cannabis production in the ALR if it isn’t grown in ways that preserve the production capacity of agricultural land. 

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