BY GLORIA J. KATCH
Special to the VOICE
Despite the previous day’s headlines regarding Health Canada’s investigation into operations at CannTrust’s Fenwick facility, not a word was uttered about the alleged violations at Wednesday’s cannabis control committee meeting.
Shannon Larocque, Senior Planner of Community Planning and Development in Pelham, wasn’t too surprised the topic wasn’t discussed.
“I don’t see it as a being a part of the committee. It’s not related to our task at hand.”
Instead, the group pondered the tactics of gathering baseline data to measure odour, with the aim of be able to mitigate it to an acceptable level, and who was responsible for doing that.
“Measuring odour is very much a solid science,” said Chair Tim Nohara, who suggested the Town hire a specialist to do take random samples, even if it were on a seasonal basis.
Member Jim Steele explained random sampling had to be taken at various times, using bags filled with air, which are diluted and attached to a machine that measures its “sensitivity.” Since the odour is “continuous,” measuring CannTrust would be a “major challenge,” he said.
Member Louis Damm noted the odour is controlled with greater difficulty in the food and livestock industry, so he believed it is possible to achieve with cannabis. Member Jim Jeffs said a CannTrust representative at their recent open house told him that controlling the odour was “very expensive to do, but we have to make our shareholders happy—so that’s it.”
Nohara said it was up to the committee to use the legislation that was already in place to enforce regulations, but data or evidence needed to be compiled to make CannTrust accountable for its odour emissions.
Once the Town has this information, “the problem goes away,” he said.
The committee appeared to treat the odour as a singular odour problem and issue, while Larocque doesn’t believe solving the problem will be that simple. She told the committee that the province sets the standards, and many of the standards have not been established yet, because they would likely vary according to the many different strains of marijuana. Different types of marijuana generate different smells, levels and sensitivity.
Larocque told the Voice that while she is not a marijuana expert, usually odour pollution is established by “so many parts per million,” but without having the levels established by the government, it’s difficult to determine if a company is breaching any regulations. Health Canada would be responsible for shutting down or suspending CannTrust’s operations, she added.
Larocque believes it could take the government five years before it has tested all the various strains, and gets standards in place. However, if the committee decides to follow their noses, and hire an air quality control specialist, Larocque said it would have to be approved by council as it involves a cost factor and planning. In the meantime, she said council wants the committee to develop a nuisance bylaw to assist with mitigating odour pollution, which she thought was a formidable goal, given the committee’s time frame.
Barb Wiens, Director of Planning and Development, circulated a draft copy of an official plan, which could be written to include guidelines on marijuana grow-ops. The committee decided to study it, and add it to the next meeting’s agenda in two weeks.
The committee is also looking at zoning bylaws related to odour and light, said Larocque. Steele and committee member John Langendoen expressed concern about which step or document would result in enforcement. The topic of relegating marijuana to non-agricultural, and mainly industrial areas was aired again. Damm said some marijuana production facilities were “fighting back” on these types of bylaws, because they want the tax credits and “priviledges of agriculture.” Nohara asserted that according to a national farming protection act, marijuana is not considered an agricultural product.
David Cribbs, the Town’s new Chief Administrative Officer, noted that relegating marijuana to industrial areas requires council action, which is why different municipalities vary on this. Cribbs and the committee were also responding to research from Wiens regarding other municipalities and how they regulated marijuana facilities. Larocque said the committee has to have input in three areas to help enforce marijuana in the future: the official plan, zoning bylaws, and site plan agreements, the latter being a contract.
“The zoning bylaw gives us the ability to charge them. The site plan is like a contract, which is very specific, outlining where facilities are located, lot coverage, distance allowances, and it’s very detailed,” explained Larocque. When the site plan agreement is made, fees are levied, which allows the Town to complete any work that is required if it isn’t done, or legally pursue a company in court.
“The enforcement ability comes through the zoning and the site plan agreement,” points out Larocque.
Member Jim Jeffs, responsible for researching traffic control, said experts on the subject indicate that Foss Road did not have the shoulder width capacity to handle the traffic and particularly large transportation trucks at the RedeCan cannabis production facility. He asked Wiens about Foss Road’s carrying capacity.
Wiens replied that the Town or the Region, depending on who owns the road and the type of road, generally considers factors such as anticipated deliveries, additional turning lanes, and other requirements according to Ministry of Transportation standards. Jeffs noted that sight lines don’t appear to meet the guidelines by experts. He added that speed was also a problem, especially in rural areas. Jeffs asked if traffic monitoring could be a condition of the site plan approval? Wiens replied when traffic monitoring was previously conducted around marijuana facilities, it was only completed for that immediate area, and not for the entire road.
Langendoen acknowledged the heavy traffic on Balfour Street, and noted if RedeCan were situated anywhere but Foss Road, the traffic would be a safety hazard.
“Local roads are not good for industry,” insisted Jeffs.
Wiens said the Town was required to meet industry design standards, but she was uncertain about all the specification “off the top of my head,” and would check for him.
While you’re here…consider taking out a Voice Membership to express your support for local journalism.