Editorial: Growing like a weed

Cannabis was decriminalized by the federal government nearly two years ago. Intended to help keep the drug away from youth and help fund harm reduction, legalization has turned into a mess for municipalities. Granted, petty possession charges for Cannabis no longer clutter the court system, but the door has been opened wide for abuse of Health Canada licencing.

Cannabis production is licenced by Health Canada with two different types: one is highly regulated industries like Tweed in Smiths Falls; the other relates to personal medical production. There is a central registry of companies licenced to grow Cannabis, but for each licence there is no community listed, nor limit on how many licences are issued. Health Canada is less than helpful in providing that information. For personal medical production, it only takes a doctor’s prescription to grow 100 grams per day, well above what is considered “average” use.

Recently, a Cannabis producer began production on agricultural land on Rowena Road in South Dundas. The producer received a building permit for 30 temporary green houses from the Municipality. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request by The Leader indicate the redacted owner of the land, and the redacted licence holder, were up front with the intent of growing Cannabis on the property. When Cannabis was legalized, it became an agricultural crop no different than growing corn or soybeans when it applies to municipal bylaws.

Verifying if a Cannabis producer is licenced, or is in compliance with Health Canada regulations is difficult. Inquiries to local OPP led to a chain of referrals eventually ending at OPP headquarters. That office referred The Leader to the aforementioned Health Canada listing of companies that are licenced to produce pot. And here we are no further ahead in our information quest.

The challenge of dealing with legal Cannabis production lies with municipalities. Leeds and Thousand Islands Township are increasing their minimum set backs for facilities to provide some space between residents and producers. Selwyn Township has added a licencing system and made zoning bylaw changes. In Norfolk County, they have a dedicated bylaw employee to deal just with Cannabis issues. Organized crime is heavily involved with Cannabis growing in that municipality, as local newspapers there report of armed robberies on Cannabis farms.

Before Cannabis production grows beyond a handful of producers in South Dundas, the municipality should actively pursue some of these restrictions. To do less invites the issue to grow like a bad weed.

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