After an open house for public input on cannabis production within the municipality, council, with no discussion, approved an extension to the interim control bylaw last week.
Two appeals have been lodged against the interim control, one from medical marijuana producer Tweed Farms, and one from representatives of an Airport Road property, where there is a plan for outdoor growth of the product.
The reason for the extension was to conduct further review of the research the Town has conducted, and to hold a public meeting to allow input from all stakeholders to ensure best practices are used to control the cultivation of cannabis.
The bylaw under discussion deals with air quality control, and imposes setbacks of 1,500 metres to sensitive land uses, including residential neighbourhoods.
Mark Stewart, a resident of St. Davids and a lawyer who said he was speaking on behalf of many concerned residents, said he, his wife and four adult children live within 1,500 metres of Canopy Growth’s Concession 5 operation, known as Tweed Farms.
He spoke of “bringing truth to the narrative,” focusing on the need for a strong bylaw to address odour emissions from cannabis cultivation.
In addition to losing more valuable tender fruit and grape farmland to cannabis production, he said, “the skunk stench will devastate the health and wellbeing of our local communities.” It will also damage the area as a destination for tourism, he added, reduce property values and “change the fabric of farming communities.”
He cited federal Regulation 85, reminding council that although the law states odour from cannabis production must be prevented from escaping, with strict compliance, there are licensed producers not complying with that regulation. Instead, there is talk about mitigating, deodorizing and masking odours, which is not what the law calls for, he said.
He asked council to ensure its bylaw enshrines the prevention of the escape of odours, pollen and dust from a building where cannabis is produced, packaged, labelled and stored. He also recommended the reference to sensitive land use be tightened and defined, with the 1,500-setback measured from property or lot lines, to avoid any argument about where a building or amenity is located on the property.
Stewart assured council they would have the backing of residents if a tough bylaw is challenged, possibly including crowd-funding to assist with legal costs in the event of a challenge from cannabis producers.
Nicholas Dell, representing the owners of the Airport Road property, repeated some of the information he presented to council this summer, saying outdoor production has less of an impact on neighbours than growing cannabis in greenhouses.
Tweed Farms’ appeal says there is no “bonafide review” underway, which is a condition of an interim control bylaw, and that the bylaw is not based on legitimate land use reasons.
Tweed also states the extension to the control bylaw seeks to regulate cannabis, which is outside the jurisdiction of a municipality and wholly within the jurisdiction of the federal government. It says no municipality is allowed to pass a bylaw restricting normal farm practices, and growing cannabis, it says, is normal farming practice.
The second appeal, from the company that hopes to grow cannabis outdoors on an Airport Road property, says council “overstepped its jurisdiction” in getting into an examination of cannabis-related land uses. Growing cannabis, it says, is no different than growing tender fruits or soybeans, on agriculturally designated property.
The Town’s response is that the interim control bylaw is consistent with provincial policy, and conforms with all relevant provincial plans and all applicable official plans. That was all that was said at last week’s meeting before the approval of extension of the bylaw.
Following the meeting last week, staff will use the input to formulate a report for council on a bylaw controlling cannabis production.