Addington Highlands Township seems to be a bit ahead of its neighbours on the cannabis question and last week held a special Council meeting to determine what its options might be.
To that end, Council invited Nancy Wartman, a planner with the IBI Group, to run them through what the rules are as they currently exist.
Wartman outlined the various governmental roles — federal, provincial and municipal — as well as cannabis for medicinal use, and cannabis for recreational use.
But most importantly, she outlined the issues municipalities have to consider, including cultivation, processing, personal cultivation, both recreational and medical, retail stores for recreational use and the opt-in/opt out aspect which municipalities must decide by Jan. 22, 2019.
“When regulating the following — cultivation, processing, personal cultivation, retail stores (coming April 2019) — we need to be thinking about land use compatibility, odour, noise, traffic/parking, secutiry/safety and servicing,” Wartman said.
All of these pertain primarily to recreational marijuana.
“The federal government regulates medical marijuana,” she said. “And Health Canada is to inform municipalities when there is a a grow-op in their jursidication.”
“Except that they don’t,” interjected Reeve Henry Hogg, referring to grow-ops on Upper Flinton Road and Clarke Line Road. “The biggest issue we’ve had is grow-op.
“I’ve been told there are 8,000 plants in the Township.”
“We’re not entitled to know the exact number of plants under the Protection of Privacy Act,” said CAO/Clerk-Treasurer Christine Reed.
Still, when it comes to medical cultivation of cannabis, there likely isn’t much a municipality can do, Wartman said.
For federally licensed producers, the considerations are, she said:
• Do you want large scale producers to come to your municipality
• Do you want farmland to be utilized for growing of cannabis
• What level of servicing is required for indoor/greenhouse/outdoor growing
• Do you want to differentiate betwwenn indoor growing versus greenhouse growing versus outdoor growing
• Are there lands available for these types of uses/where do you envision them locating.
And, when it comes to medical cultivation, local regulation of medical cannabis potentially engages Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) issues, she said.
When it comes to personal recreational use cultivation, it could be handled in the Official Plan, Zoning Bylaw, a new licensing bylaw or a nuisance bylaw (for odour).
“But can we really regulate where it is grown or if it has to be grown in a greenhouse?” said Hogg. “We’ve had odour complaints about a pre-existing operation but how much control can we have?”
“I guess we have to realize we have quite the underground economy here and of course you can get it online,” said Dep. Reeve Helen Yanch.
When it comes to retail operations, there are some incentives to opt in, such as $15 million in funding available from the provincial government, job creation, tax assessment and tourism.
However, they require a municipality to opt in before Jan. 22, 2019.
Wartman said she thought a municipality would have considerable control over the location of retail operations through zoning, either by treating it as retail use (ie C1 Zone) or defining a Cannabis Retail Facility and permitting it only in new, use-specific zone or existing zones where appropriate. Such a new zone would likely include provisions to regulate separation from sensitive land uses, separation from other retail cannabis stores, parking, signage, lighting, hours of operation, etc.
Reed pointed out that if you opt in, that’s it, you’re in for good. If you opt out (ie prohibiting retail sales), you can opt in at a later date, but it’s likely that the $15 million in funding would no longer be available.
“My recommendation would be to opt out to buy some time,” said Reed.
“It would be good to have some more public input which could be a survey on the website,” said Coun. Kirby Thompson. “We enjoyed the presentation but It just kind of makes our water a little more murky.”
“I don’t think this going to work out the way the federal government thinks,” said Coun. Tony Fritsch. “If you can grow your own, why would you buy it?”