A growing number of Canadian farmers are moving away from cultivating food in favour of marijuana — a decision that is drawing protests and calls for legislative changes.

As Canada prepares for marijuana to become legalized throughout the country in October, a rising number of  farmers are shifting to marijuana and cannabis cultivation, a change that is drawing the ire of people who feel farms should be used for growing food products not drug cash crops.

In the province of British Columbia, for example, a district municipality outside the capital city of Victoria set aside a plot of agricultural land to become a large-scale marijuana production facility supporting a total of 21 greenhouses. But protesters descended on the site and demanded a ban on cannabis production on farmland.

The group that led the protest outside Victoria is called “Citizens Protecting Agricultural Land,” and they say their concern is that too many farmers will turn to growing marijuana rather than traditional grains and other food sources.

The protests over using agricultural land to grow marijuana rather than food got so vocal in British Columbia this summer that the provincial government intervened and changed the rules governing agricultural land use throughout the province.

New legislation in British Columbia gives local governments and First Nations the ability to block marijuana-growing operations on land that is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve — the provincial zone in which agriculture and food production is recognized as the priority use.

Marijuana growers could face similar challenges in other jurisdictions of Canada that have a covenant placed on farmland. Those covenants could restrict what any future owner may do with the land and limit land owners from selling property zoned for agricultural use to marijuana growers.

Municipalities across Canada are likely to face increasing issues related to food versus marijuana as legal use of the recreational drug becomes a part of mainstream Canadian life and production moves out of hidden grow-ops and onto farmland.

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