Neighbours’ complaints against Carmel Cannabis go up in smoke
October 3, 2023 By Local Journalism Initiative
By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Carmel is a growing player in the cannabis industry.
The four-year-old company, based in Oro-Medonte township, last year won Craft Brand of the Year, Craft Cultivar of the Year and Best Sativa Flower, based on a survey of 300 Canadian budtenders.
Reviews of the company’s products are positive and the company has developed a reputation for delivering what consumers want – potent, pungent plants. A review of Animal Face, one of the company’s most popular products, on a site devoted to such things, specifically references the strain’s smell, an attribute that is apparently important to cannabis users.
“Upon first whiff, a bold pine note dominates the senses, evoking feelings of tranquility and grounding,” the review says.
Tranquility and grounding?
Not so much, according to Carmel’s neighbours in the hamlet of Oro-Station, located at the intersection of Line 7 South and Ridge Road East in Oro-Medonte, about halfway between Barrie and Orillia.
Julia Dezoete, who lives across the street from Carmel, said there is no escaping the smell, which she says is more skunk than bold pine note.
“You go outside to enjoy a nice fresh day and it’s all you can smell, it’s terrible,” she said.
Dezoete has been living in Oro Station for five years. The past four, since Carmel set up shop, have been “horrible.”
She’s thought of selling her home to escape the offensive odour but doubts if it would do well on the open market.
“I think it would be a pretty hard sell,” she said. “I mean, they’d come here to look at the house and the first thing they’d smell is the pot. Nobody would want that.”
According to Dezoete and other neighbours, the smell, noise, traffic and lights from the indoor grow operation are headaches that never go away.
Unlike an outdoor grow operation, they said, where the plants are only a concern during their flowering period – late August to early October – Carmel is an indoor operation – they grow a new crop every few months so the problem is constant.
The scale of Carmel Cannabis’ operation is impressive, considering you can’t see it from the road or the county trail that passes it, just north of the facility’s property line.
A six-foot high chain link fence, with razor wire on the top, surrounds the grow compound. An electronically-controlled gate and video system silently monitors the comings-and-goings of workers, contractors and visitors.
Eight massive greenhouses, each one containing thousands of plants, are aligned with military precision. The fans are on and you can hear the constant whirl of the blades from almost any location in the hamlet.
A gentle breeze comes up from the south-east and the place smells like it just been invaded by a thousand agitated skunks.
“You don’t have to buy it if you’re standing here,” said Bill Wallace, who has lived on Line 7 just south of the Oro Station crossroads for 50 years. “Just come on over and inhale. That’ll do the trick.”
Wallace, like many of the folks BarrieToday talked with in Oro Station, has basically given up complaining about Carmel to local officials. He said every time he calls officials at the township, his concerns are brushed off or ignored.
“Nobody seems to care,” he said. “You talk to the township about it and they say `we talked to them about it and they’re going to be bringing in a big fan or this or that chemical that will cut the odour’.
“Nothing happens. It hasn’t changed since day one.”
According to Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw, residents who have concerns with the way Carmel Cannabis operates should notify the federal government since Health Canada regulates the cultivation and processing of cannabis and licenses producers.
“The regulations are set by the federal government, they (Carmel) have to adhere to those regulations and there shouldn’t be an elongated odour and inconvenience to the community,” Greenlaw said.
Wallace isn’t surprised the mayor advised residents to call Ottawa. He said that’s been the game all along.
“The locals blame the feds, the feds blame the locals. It’s just kickball,” Wallace said. “Nobody wants to take responsibility.”
According to Wallace, nobody in the community knew Carmel was setting up shop a hundred yards away from their homes. He said he only found it was a cannabis production facility after it was built.
According to Wallace, who said he talked with every neighbour in his community, nobody knew anything about Carmel.
“I talked with everyone, up and down this road, and not one of them was visited by anyone on council at the time,” Wallace said. “The whole thing was hush-hush.”
While Wallace concedes Carmel is doing nothing wrong – they have the legal right to do business in a legally designated area – he is bothered by what he calls “a lack of common sense” among members of the previous council.
“Who would approve a cannabis operation in a residential neighbourhood?” he asked.
BarrieToday reached out multiple times to Carmel Cannabis for comment. They did not respond.
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