A staff report submitted to council on April 14 highlighted a need for the municipality to develop policies relating to legal medical marijuana growing operations.
In his report to council, Director of Planning and Building, Rob Armstrong, said that with the recent federal changes to the growing and processing of medical marijuana, the municipality has had interest expressed in establishing a facility in Meaford.
“The Municipality of Meaford has received a number of inquiries from individuals citing interest in becoming medical marihuana producers under the new regulations. The current municipal planning documents do not contemplate this specific use nor do they include any specific site planning considerations to address potential public health and safety concerns which may arise due to proximity of such operations to sensitive land uses. Staff recognize however, that interpretation of the existing provisions of the by-law could potentially allow for such an operation to be established in an Agricultural, Rural, Specialty Agricultural, Commercial, Development or Industrial Zone,” said Armstrong in his report.
"These new regulations aim to treat marijuana similarly to other narcotics used for medical purposes by creating conditions for a new industry that is responsible for its production and distribution. The intention is to provide access to quality-controlled marijuana for medical purposes, produced under secure and sanitary conditions, to those Canadians who need it while enhancing the safety of our communities," wrote Armstrong.
The new regulations implemented by the federal government are intended to centralize and better monitor the growing and selling of medical marijuana. Under the previous Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR), much of the production of medical marijuana was being done by individuals on a personal consumption or small scale home industry operation.
This meant that production was often occurring in private dwellings, or in outbuildings on residential lots, often with dangerously modified electrical wiring, or stolen electricity. The new system will see the issuance of production licenses to producers meeting Health Canada’s stringent quality- control, notification and security requirements.
Those who were growing their own medical marijuana were to have discontinued growing, and destroyed any excess stock by April 1 of this year, however a federal court injunction has meant that those patients can continue to grow their medicine until a final decision has been made by the court. A final decision on the challenge to the new regulations is expected in the next 9 to 12 months.
Many communities across the country are beginning to implement policies to ensure that medical marijuana growing facilities are properly placed within the community.
In Smith's Falls Ontario, Canada's first publicly traded medical marijuana company has turned a former chocolate factory into a growing and processing facility. Similar operations are being proposed in several communities, including Meaford.
Councillors seemed supportive of welcoming such a business, however they have learned from past experience that a proactive approach can save headaches and frustration in the future. Council approved the resolution included in Armstrong's report that directs staff to conduct a study focused on the land use planning policies applicable to Medical Marijuana Grow Operations and, to enact an interim control by-law to prohibit the establishment of a Medical Marihuana Grow Operation on lands zoned Agricultural, Rural, Specialty Agricultural, Commercial, Development, or Industrial by Comprehensive Zoning By-law 60-2009 in Municipality of Meaford until such time as the study has been completed and any resulting implementation measures have been approved.
“Staff are of the opinion that detailed study is required to better understand the nature of the Medical Marihuana Grow Operations being created under the new regulations and to ensure that our local planning documents will facilitate the establishment of only appropriately located and developed operations,” said Armstrong in his report.