Local Journalism Initiative
Enniskillen is looking for a way to settle disputes between municipalities and big cannabis producers.
The township wants to use the current minimum distance separation rules normally used in agriculture for large-scale cannabis facilities.
Right now, municipalities are trying to set distance standards between the facilities and residential or sensitive areas, such as churches or parks. But these can be quickly challenged by the cannabis companies. In Pelham, Leviathan Cannabis Group sued the town after a bylaw stopped any new cannabis greenhouses from opening.
“Some of these companies have big bucks to take on the municipal governments,” says Enniskillen Deputy Mayor Judy Krall.
Krall authored the township’s letter that was sent to federal Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau about the setbacks.
Krall has received complaints – often smell related, but also dealing with light and noise – from residents about the High Park facility just north of Petrolia. The cannabis farm sits about 100 meters from the nearest home.
These complaints are common in communities where cannabis plants have popped up, she says.
Krall described a scene at an Ontario Federation of Agriculture meeting last November. “There was a farmer there from the Leamington area and he was up in arms over the cannabis. He had one across the road from him; he said the lights were so bad in his son’s bedroom it was like it was daylight for 24 hours,” Krall says.
Krall says the town met with provincial Minister of Agriculture, Ernie Hardeman, but received no help.
“He basically said he couldn’t do anything for us. They washed their hands of it,” Krall says.
“I don’t understand why all three levels [of government] don’t work together to come up with some framework. Because to me this is a waste of taxpayer dollars when we have to go to court to fight them,” says Krall.
The issue, she says, is especially pressing now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Imagine living across from a cannabis operation, and during self-isolation, you wanted to open the windows of your house to get some fresh air. The air would not be fresh, as it would smell of cannabis. These individuals have already been living in self-isolation from the odour, noise and light from these operations. We can do better for the health and well-being of our citizens,” read the end of the letter to Bibeau.
Krall says after making little headway with Conservative politicians they are now reaching out to members of the Liberal party, such as Bibeau. The township is also hoping to secure a meeting with Kate Young, Liberal MP in the London West riding.
“Hopefully someone will listen to our concerns and help all municipalities come up with bylaws that aren’t going to be challenged,” says Krall.