Article by Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer
Halting the proliferation of illegal marijuana grow operations across Norfolk County has been time-consuming and labour-intensive and promises to stay that way this summer and beyond.
That’s one of the takeaways from a review of Norfolk bylaw enforcement actions since the issue of nuisance grow operations presented itself several years ago.
In a report, bylaw enforcement supervisor Jim Millson says the county has identified 100 grow operations in Norfolk that are operating outside the law.
Owners of these properties will receive letters this month saying the county is aware of this activity and that it would be in their best interests to cease-and-desist until they comply with all relevant federal, provincial and municipal regulations.
“Our best understanding of known cannabis production sites in Norfolk over the last three years is 109 locations,” Millson said. “Of those, we have been able to close nine files as unfounded as they were either not growing, were in compliance with zoning, or the matter involved criminality and was referred to the OPP.
“In just the last year, bylaw has laid charges at 20 different production sites, charging 39 producers with a total of 75 offences.”
In his report, which will be presented at Norfolk council Tuesday, Millson says the number of suspect grow operations may be lower than estimated due to several greenhouse production facilities collapsing this winter due to snow loading. Building-code compliance and the use of inferior materials are among the many issues identified with these operations. This in turn has required a considerable devotion of time and resources from the county building department.
“The end result was — and can be — a building which poses significant safety risks to the workers inside as well as significant nuisance impacts on the community nearby,” Millson says.
When Health Canada partnered with the private sector for the production of medicinal marijuana several years ago, Norfolk council looked forward to the county becoming “The Cannabis Capital of Canada.”
However, a subsequent court ruling deemed unconstitutional federal barriers to the production of medicinal cannabis outside Health Canada’s preferred grower network. The ruling allowed legal users of medicinal marijuana to delegate production to a third-party grower.
Once the federal government accepted the ruling, makeshift grow operations popped up in Norfolk and elsewhere. Odor and light-pollution complaints soon followed, as did evidence of criminal activity at some locations.