‘The main problem here is the federal government is not following through on its commitment either for licensing or supervising,’ says Harry Hughes
Every industry has its growing pains.
Although there’s a giggle associated with the effects of marijuana, it’s no laughing matter for Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes when it comes to cannabis production in his township.
“The main problem here is the federal government is not following through on its commitment either for licensing or supervising,” said Hughes.
Hughes knows of three or four different manufacturing facilities in his neck of the woods that have not been registered with the municipality as either hemp or cannabis producers.
While the township drew up an interim control bylaw – to study where its regulations and the provincial and federal legislation coalesced – staff and council believe that what the province describes as an agricultural-based industry may actually fall into the industrial category.
Hughes said there are still concerns about industrial requirements for production facilities.
“We found that, in fact, there were problems with noise, odour and lights from time to time and that caused us to then take a look and say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not agricultural – this is different than your normal agricultural crop’,” he said.
Several local facilities have said they have been licensed by the federal government, but Hughes said there has been no contact with council from the federal government. This is contrary to a letter he said he has from federal officials stating that council would be notified directly about any local cannabis production sites.
Health Canada’s website states: “When applying to be a licensed producer under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes regulations, or when applying to amend a licence, an applicant must notify, the municipality, the fire department and local law enforcement.”
Additionally, it states, “licensed producers are expected to obey all relevant federal, provincial and municipal laws and bylaws, including municipal zoning bylaws.”
Hughes said one licence was given without the knowledge of the township.
“That licence is in violation of our bylaw,” he said.
Essa Township chief administrative officer Colleen Healy Dowdall said its bylaws fit the bill, but they haven’t had any producers step up to the plate yet.
“We’ve always had agricultural zoning for different or special crops, so our zoning requirements were fine,” Healy Dowdall said. Essa’s stipulation that production occur in an industrial area where there is fire protection and water availability might have something to do with the lack of clientele.
“We’ve had numerous calls, but I’m not aware of anybody who has pursued a legal operation licence,” she said.
As for stores that open and are legally receiving their supply from the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) — the only licensed distributor of cannabis – there have been minor hiccups along the way.
Carson Macneall, manager of The Cannabis Store in Angus, said his store’s licence was bumped up three months and they were advised in February they could open that month.
“We had a June open date, but we couldn’t get the construction finished until March because of (COVID-19) red-zone restrictions,” Macneall said.
As the third location in the franchise (the other two are in Barrie and Orillia), it did open March 12 to a customer base of people between the ages of 30 to 50, he said.
“Any dispenser (of cannabis) has the same stock because we all have the same distributor, so there’s no advantage to any one store,” he said.
He did note, however, that if a marijuana production facility opened in Essa, he wouldn’t be able to buy product from it directly.
“We can speak to farmers about their product and hear why they believe their product is good and we could recommend them to the OCS, but we couldn’t buy directly from them. We can’t buy locally,” he said.
Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative, Barrie Advance