Article by Natasha Philpott, Bradford Today
It was a packed house at the BWG Town Council meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss a hot topic in town: cannabis.
In the Committee of the Whole Meeting, a report was presented with a proposal to hold a public meeting and prepare a by-law zoning amendment for the growing of cannabis in the Holland Marsh area.
Over the past 12-18 months, the town has received inquiries from potential growers looking to obtain licences for Cannabis Micro-Cultivation Operation facilities within the municipality.
Back in May 2019, council introduced an interim by-law Control By-law (ICBL) under the Planning Act to temporarily prohibit new Cannabis Micro-Cultivation Operations so that town staff was able to consider necessary planning and zoning by-laws that could address such facilities in the area.
Growing cannabis in the Marsh has become an increasing issue and has been cause for numerous complaints regarding odour, drainage issues, the installation of greenhouses and enforcement issues.
Three farmers came out to voice their concerns in the Open Forum portion of the council meeting, regarding the lack of regulation in the Marsh. They expressed their frustration over the impact of cannabis greenhouses on their livelihood.
David Munshaw was one of the farmers who spoke.
Munshaw, who has been farming since 1988 with his father, urged council to create a by-law to reduce the number of greenhouses being allowed to grow cannabis in the Marsh, noting the odour is “thick in the air with an oily discharge,” that has penetrated home and carrot storage facility.
“It is literally in our house, in our living room, you can smell it, it doesn’t go away,” he told Councillors.
Munshaw added that the odour has put a strain on his marriage; his wife no longer wants to raise a family in the Marsh.
“There is excess water coming off these greenhouses, going down my field, in my carrot crop,” he said. “This is our liveliehood and if we keep losing fields, in 10 years, the Marsh is going to be full of dope.”
His wife Chrstine also voiced her concerns and pleaded for council to help, noting “valuable soil is being covered up and taken out of production.”
“The Marsh is part of Bradford’s history and its roots. Please do the right thing and amend the bylaws for vegetable growing only.”
Council agreed that something needs to be done and soon, noting that staff have taken the proper steps in getting the wheels in motion for creating some guidelines.
“We got to do something and we got to do something fast,” said Coun. Gary Baynes. “Whatever we come up with has to look at the existing and the new grow ops.”
The report was to provide council with a review of the types of cannabis licences offered through Health Canada, outline the policies and zoning in regards to growing cannabis in the town’s agricultural and rural areas, and provide reviews of the issues related to micro-cultivation operations, cannabis cultivation on the Holland Marsh, and drainage impacts in the Marsh, more specifically from greenhouse installations.
Some of the options presented to council included: