Enniskillen stops new cannabis operations for a year

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Plants inside High Park Farms. It closed in Sept. 2021.

Enniskillen wants to be ready the next time a cannabis producer wants to set up in the township.

Council has passed an Interim Control Bylaw which stops the development of any cannabis operation in the municipality for at least a year. It buys the council time to come up with some regulations about where the operations can go and possibly create regulations around the emission of light and odour.

County Planner Rob Nesbitt has been working on ways for a number of Lambton municipalities to deal with the cannabis industry.

“Since the legalization of recreation cannabis in 2018, there’s been an increase in the interest in establishing production facilities within the county,” he told Enniskillen councillors Monday.

“We also note OMAFRA (the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs) stated that cannabis is an agricultural crop like any other. Therefore, this crop cannot be prohibited, but it can be regulated.”

Enniskillen is home to the county’s largest cannabis producer, High Park Farms. At the time Tilray leased an existing greenhouse to begin its operations to produce medical marijuana.

As the recreational market opened up, High Park farms began to focus on producing for the Ontario marketplace.

That production brought problems for the neighbours. Trevor Brand and his mother, Cathy, live just across the road from the facility and have been urging both the municipal and federal government to do something to stop the company from allowing the skunk like odour to escape from the greenhouses.

High Park has spent millions trying to find a solution, however the Brands say it is still an issue. Brand has taken the unusual step of taking High Park Farms to the Normal Farm Practices Board to try and get relief.

Some councillors, including Judy Krall and Mary-Lynne McCallum who have been vocal about the issue, wanted to create some rules around where cannabis facilities could operate in the township, hoping to prevent other neighbours from facing similar problems.

So, Nesbitt drafted the Interim Control Bylaw for Enniskillen to consider. Municipalities don’t use the tool very often because it stops any development cold. But Enniskillen is not the first to enact one; Plympton-Wyoming recently passed an Interim Control bylaw so it, too, could figure out exactly where cannabis facilities would be able to operate.

Monday, one Enniskillen councillor questioned whether the Interim Control Bylaw was necessary. Township officials have said in the past there are very few places a large scale greenhouse could set up in Enniskillen since they need access to natural gas, which is limited in some areas, and lots of water. A greenhouse in Dawn-Euphemia, just south of Enniskillen, didn’t get off the ground because of the lack of water in the line that feeds the two municipalities.

“I don’t see making a bylaw for something that’s not going to happen in the township,” said Councillor Wally Van Dun.

“There are only two spots that they could do it and if we can’t provide gas or water, it is likely not going to happen.”

While Nesbitt agreed access to gas and water “is literally going to be a constraint on any similar uses coming to the municipality” he says smaller operations may be possible.

“There has been at least some possibility of a smaller facility where someone is growing for a number of households for example, or medical cannabis, which could be adequately provided with water and gas and yet depending on where they’re located, they could have an impact on the neighboring land uses.

“So this (bylaw) would apply to all facilities regardless of the size.”

Council passed the bylaw Monday.

It’s expected there will be a study to see what should be included in the townships rules surrounding cannabis facilities.

Nesbitt adds Enniskillen might get some ideas for the bylaw after the Normal Farm Practices hearing is over.