By Tristan Marks
Prospective small-scale cannabis producers fear that proposed bylaws will strengthen the blackmarket while restricting legal trade at Grimsby’s Planning and Development Committee Cannabis Land Use Review open house on Tues. Nov. 19.
Staff and councillors presented and discussed the proposed policy.
Members from the community then had a chance to speak to the committee about any questions, comments or concerns they had regarding proposed bylaw changes which the town would take into consideration before finalizing a bylaw policy.
Among the issues raised was that of minimum setback. In the list of suggestions for site plan control was a minimum setback of 150m-300m. This requires that anyone planning to build a cannabis growing facility would need to first have the site plan approved by Grimsby’s planning department. Then for a site plan to be approved, any facility’s walls must be no less than 150m-300m from the nearest property line.
One Grimsby resident hoping to start a small-scale cannabis cultivation business said that the setback requirements are “completely insane.”
The resident, Blair Hensen explained this would cause eyesores with facilities standing in the middle of massive, empty fields. He added that these restrictions would keep the legitimate market closed to all but “the big companies who can afford to pay their way through.”
“You’d have to buy a massive property,” said Hensen. “These licenses were introduced to help the small guy.”
Selina Eckersall, a Grimsby resident with experience in the industry echoed Hensen’s concerns warning about the impact over-regulation could have.
“The black market is thriving,” she said. “It’s been stronger because of heavy-handed measures.”
The discussion also shifted to odour control.
One member of the public, Stacy McNeill suggested the need for an objective measure for odour.
“What one person thinks is terrible might smell sweet to another,” he said. “What we need is some kind of number we can use. Unless we use that in the bylaw, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Coun. Lianne Vardy agreed with him and said that the town should set a specific measure of particles in the air.
She said that the town could consider enforcing grow-op to install equipment “that heavily scrubs the air.”
However, Eckersall said that this restriction would be redundant.
“Health Canada already requires us to have odour control,” she explained.
She said that most odour comes from designated growers with medical licenses, which do not have the same regulations that commercial grows have.
Coun. Dorothy Bothwell pointed out the need for concise definitions for various terms in the bylaw to prevent loopholes. Among these include defining exactly what buildings are considered ‘sensitive land use’, which cannabis facilities must be located a good distance away from, and strengthening what is considered an odour nuisance.
She also said that the town should investigate what makes a cannabis facility agricultural versus industrial use, warning that the province’s Normal Farm Practices Board (NFPB) could strike down any bylaw that they deem hinders their definition of “normal farm practices”.
Bothwell cited a study from the fire department that said, “when the plant is processed into oils, hashish or similar products, it is no longer an agricultural use.”
Under this definition, she argued, the NFPB wouldn’t have jurisdiction over certain facilities if they were zoned under industrial use.
“If we start strong and clear, we have something to work from,” she concluded.
The next phase of the process will be to recommend bylaw and implementation methods. The comments received during the Nov. 19 meeting will be taken into consideration.