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Greater Madawaska eyes prohibition of commercial cannabis operations


November 3, 2020
By Yona Harvey, Smith Falls Record News (Local Journalism Initiative)

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A public meeting to discuss a proposed zoning bylaw amendment that would prohibit commercial cannabis cultivation in Greater Madawaska will take place online in December.

“Some municipalities are getting surprised as these operations pop up and without appropriate land use controls in place, we don’t have any ability to stop this in undesirable locations or to help neighbours,” said Luke Desjardins, manager of planning and development for the township during the Oct. 21 council meeting.

With a bylaw in place, anyone wishing to start a commercial cannabis operation would need to come to the township office with the application for zoning use.

“By that process, we can give due public notice and put them through an evaluation. Without this in place, then they can grow (cannabis) without our control,” Desjardins said.

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Desjardins discussed in a phone interview some issues residents could encounter if a property owner buys or develops land for cannabis production.

“What happens is a security parameter gets put up: chain link fence with barbed wire on top and security lighting. (It creates) an unpleasant feeling when you’re living beside that. (There will be) issues with odour, people wonder if it will introduce crime to get access to these operations,” Desjardins explained.

“It’s a good time to put this in place before we have a problem,” he said. Desjardins said the township will give public notice in the paper in mid-November, with links to access the December meeting online.

The meeting will be available for viewing on the township’s YouTube channel.

The proposed zoning bylaw amendment states that “a Licensed Cannabis Production Facility of any kind, including a commercial greenhouse or home industry or home occupation or accessory building/structure or agricultural use or farm or institutional use or light industrial use or warehouse involved in cultivation or production of cannabis is a prohibited uses in all zones except as otherwise permitted through a Zoning Bylaw Amendment.”

The issue has not been top of mind for some neighbouring municipalities, but has led to an interim control bylaw in at least one other.

Horton Mayor David Bennett said in a phone interview that “there would be deep discussion between council and staff before we bring something like that to the table.”

“It is not on our agenda right now. We have never had any issues brought to the table to that effect to this day,” Bennett added.

As for the township of McNab/Braeside, Mayor Tom Peckett said they have had this issue at council before.

“A long time ago we addressed that if they abide by all the rules and regulations, they can have their commercial operation. But there are several guidelines and rules (they have to follow),” Peckett said.

An individual had applied for a commercial cannabis operation a few years ago, but the applicant has since moved away from the township. “We haven’t had anybody apply to us for a long time now,” Peckett added.

Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue was unavailable for comment, but township clerk Allison Vereyken said that “we have an interim control bylaw in place right now in relation to cannabis so we have time to complete the study to properly implement, or not implement the bylaw.”

Vereyken said the township had received some inquiries about cannabis production bylaws. “There are some individuals who are trying to work with Health Canada to get licences but there’s been nothing as far as someone who has a licence from Health Canada and applying to do a zoning amendment in our township,” she said.

The Cannabis Act, passed in October 2018, “creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada,” according to the Government of Canada website.

The Act aims to “keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, keep profits out of the pockets of criminals and protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis,” the website further stated.

With provincial restrictions, adults are legally allowed to grow from licensed seedlings up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use.