Article by Beth Audet, Niagara-on-the-Lake Advance
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one step closer to adopting a cannabis bylaw.
In a recent public meeting, the town solicited public feedback regarding its draft bylaw that stipulates that no land, building or structure used for cannabis production that isn’t equipped with air treatment control would be permitted in a rural or urban zone. It also proposes a 1,500 metre setback.
Mark Stewart, a NOTL resident and partner at the Stewart House law firm in St. Catharines, said it is important to bring truth to the narrative.
“We are on the front lines of a very unique war.”
Odour is recognized as the biggest issue with cannabis processing, he said, and yet the discussion has revolved around abatement rather than prevention.
The law states that a building must be equipped with a system that prevents the escape of odour, he said.
“It is not ‘reduce,’ it is not ‘treat,’ it is ‘prevent.’”
Many cannabis facilities are retrofitted greenhouses, which are designed to release passive air, he said, not to capture and filter it before letting it out.
Canopy has tried out six different air filtration systems and yet Stewart says odour continues to be a problem impacting an enormous volume of people.
It is now up to the town council to pass a tough bylaw to be laid at the feet of Health Canada, the federal government, the cannabis industry and Canopy, he said, to demonstrate that nobody is above the rule of law.
The proposed bylaw is a good start, but he suggested edits including the clarification that odour measures must be preventative and that setbacks should begin at property lines rather than buildings.
If the bylaw is appealed, he said he and roughly 40 concerned residents that figuratively stand behind him are prepared to assist the council.
“Cannabis production is not compatible with our town’s present or future. It will absolutely change the fabric of our community and it will change the fabric in a way that’s going to be absolutely deleterious.”
Nicholas Dell, who runs Harper Dell & Associates, a consulting firm for land development, reaffirmed his position that seasonal sun grown, open soil cannabis could be less impactful than greenhouse production.
His clients on 930 Airport Rd. have appealed the town’s extension of its cannabis interim control bylaw along with Canopy Growth Corp. He said they also have concerns with the official plan and zoning bylaw currently in place, as they believe them to be out of step with agricultural intent.
“It is important that you don’t brandish all cannabis producers with the same brush.”
The bylaw is currently structured to put all cannabis processing strictly into greenhouses, which would replace the farming landscape with industrial style buildings, he said.
In a humid room that essentially simulates a tropical environment, he said you are cultivating a more potent plant. A cannabis crop grown outdoors is less potent, as is its smell.
He said outdoor, seasonal growth has the potential to lessen the impact as it is a more gentle and managed growth. The smell would be at its strongest only in the final weeks of its life when it flowers and then it is brought inside for harvesting.
There is a smell factor with many types of farming and while there is a stigma around the smell of cannabis, he said he believes manure to be much worse.
Shawn Webster, the director of government and stakeholder relations for Canopy, said he believes aspects of the proposed bylaw, including the 1,500 metre setback, to be overly restrictive and not based on scientific studies.
He said Canopy maintains that the growth of cannabis is a normal farming practice pursuant to the Farming and Food Production Protection Act and therefore no municipality can pass a bylaw to regulate land use to control a normal farm practice.