Producers of legal marijuana in Norfolk might want to figure out ways to seal off their operations from the outdoor environment.
This week, Norfolk principal planner Mat Vaughan said farmers interested in the production of hemp have contacted county offices. If hemp is added to the agricultural mix in Norfolk, Vaughan says it will present a serious challenge to local producers of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes.
“What we’re going to see is a lot of cross-contamination between hemp and marijuana,” Vaughan told Norfolk council Tuesday. “Unless there are strict production controls, I don’t think we’re going to see marijuana succeed in Norfolk County.”
The conflict arises because cannabis producers avoid pollination at all costs.
They cultivate for maximum oil, resin and phytochemical production — all of which are impaired when the flowers of the female plant are pollinated and given over to seed production.
There are many strains of marijuana and hemp but they all belong to the cannabis family. They will interbreed.
The “strict controls” Vaughan refers to involves sealing off marijuana production from the outside environment in its entirety. This will be necessary for at least part of the year because the air – at times — will be thick with pollen from hemp.
Hemp was grown in Norfolk as part of a provincial pilot project about 20 years ago. It was thought at the time that it had potential as a base ingredient for car parts such as interior dashboards.
Hemp has been prized since ancient times for its durable fibre. It has been used since prehistoric times to braid rope and weave textiles.
Through various refining processes, hemp can also be used to make paper, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, food and animal feed.
The fast-growing hemp plant is also a natural candidate for the production of biofuels and biomass. Unlike cannabis strains grown for medicinal and recreational purposes, hemp does not have the same psychoactive effects when smoked or consumed as a food product.
The subject of hemp was raised in connection with a report about the production of legal marijuana in local greenhouses and its potential to disrupt sensitive land uses nearby.
Last year – in response to a large number of complaints about odour and light pollution – Norfolk County adopted regulations requiring greenhouses with odour-mitigating technology to be at least 150 metres from homes, schools, places of worship and daycare centres.
This week, the list was updated to include campgrounds, group homes, hotels, seniors homes, mobile home parks, green space, places of assembly, places of entertainment, sports and recreation facilities, tent and trailer parks, tourist cabins and hospitals.
The report Vaughan brought forward also seeks to re-designate cannabis-production facilities from agricultural to industrial. Vaughan said the measure is justified because of the profound impact marijuana production can have on adjacent properties.
“It’s very different than any other agriculture,” Vaughan said. “That has to do with the effect it has on sensitive land uses.”