Article by CBC News
Strathcona County council is preparing to hear from residents later this month about whether cannabis production facilities should be allowed on agricultural land.
After cannabis was legalized in 2018, Strathcona County amended a land-use bylaw to allow cannabis operations to be built on agricultural land. Three years later, council is discussing whether to reverse course.
At a Feb. 23 meeting, council voted 5-4 to review the earlier bylaw amendment.
Councillor Paul Smith, who raised the idea of reviewing that 2018 decision, said more discussion was needed because cannabis production hasn’t turned out to be as much of a financial boon as hoped.
“Cannabis is not turning out to be the new goose laying a golden egg, as far as agriculture is concerned,” Smith told CBC News on Tuesday.
A public hearing to discuss the proposed bylaw change is scheduled for March 23 at 7 p.m. The last time a public hearing was held on the issue, when the bylaw amendment was discussed in 2018, more than 200 people attended.
Smith wants to see cannabis facilities on industrial-zoned land, where they would be able to more easily get the services they need such as roads and water, without putting a tax burden on other residents.
He said some residents were also worried about the nuisance of such facilities if they operated year-round, compared to other crops that people may object to because of their odour or allergies, which are only seasonal.
Since the bylaw amendment in 2018, Strathcona County has received four applications to build cannabis facilities on agricultural land, according to a report from the county. One was refused, but the other three were approved.
For two of the approved cannabis sites, the report said, concerns were raised about potential odour, noise, lighting, traffic and security. None of the approved facilities have been constructed.
Three years ago, Aaron Barr, CEO of the Canadian Rockies Hemp Corporation, called council’s new rules for cannabis production precedent-setting. His company, at the time called Canadian Rockies Agricultural, was one of three that were approved to build facilities on agricultural land.