Just Another Type of Farming
ALLISTON – Clearview Mayor Ken Ferguson speaks very positively about his experience with a commercial medical marijuana producer that’s been operating in his township for the past two years.
Ferguson said the municipality does not regulate the grower The Peace Naturals Project through zoning bylaws and so far things have worked out fine.
He said it was clear to him from the get-go that the medical marijuana operation was just another type of farming.
“These are the new things coming up for the future, the medical marijuana is widely used,” he said.
Since medical marijuana operations are regulated by Health Canada, he said the municipality hasn’t had much say over the grower outside of the development of the operation’s site plan and making sure its building and fire code standards are up to snuff.
The Clearview grower is located at a farm property near Stayner and was one of the first businesses in Canada to receive a federal growing licence.
“It’s very well regulated, it’s tested,” Ferguson said. “It’s accountable from the seedlings right through to the harvest aspect of it. We have no issues.”
South Simcoe municipalities meanwhile remain undecided on how to zone the operations ahead of new federal regulations coming into effect next month.
The changes will force people to start buying their medical marijuana from commercial growers licenced by Health Canada. The ministry is making the changes in a bid to better regulate growers and to address enforcement issues under the old system that allowed individuals to grow their own plants.
In recent months New Tecumseth, Essa, Adjala-Tosorontio and the Nottawasaga OPP have been working together on a standard zoning regulation. The municipalities are expected to continue these talks later this month.
There is currently one commercial growing licence being sought in New Tecumseth and three in Adjala-Tosorontio.
New Tecumseth Mayor Mike MacEachern said the town is leaning towards limiting the operations to industrial and light manufacturing zones, away from agricultural areas.
He said there are many factors that need to be considered in zoning the operations, from the facility size and requirements, security needs and the number of employees.
“From our community standpoint we just want to make sure it occurs in the right location and we can mitigate any issues that might result,” he said.
Last month Adjala-Tosorontio passed an interim control bylaw to prohibit the operations until a final zoning decision is made.
“It’s still very much up in the air at this stage,” said Adjala-Tos manager of planning Jacquie Tschekalin, adding the municipality might create a list of criteria to help narrow down the appropriate locations.
From Ferguson’s perspective, commercial grow ops are best suited in agricultural areas since they require a large property, use greenhouses and have similar water needs.
A major component to the federal oversight is making sure the site is secure, which Ferguson said is especially important in remote areas.
“They have to meet a real high level of security, accountability, fencing, the list goes on. It’s a huge list,” he said.
Essa Mayor Terry Dowdall said he’s not sure if the operations would be better off in an industrial area or agricultural location where they would be less noticeable.
“We just don’t have enough information yet,” Dowdall said. “We will have to wait until the full report comes back.”
While the idea of having a grow operation as a neighbour could be troubling for some, Ferguson said local residents have been very accepting of the business.
He credited this to the operation owner for being up front about things and for the work he did to “set the bar” in terms of its safety and security measures.
“In my area there has been very little push back from the public,” he added.
By: Brad Pritchard
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