Health Canada says it can’t suspend, revoke or refuse a cannabis licence because of a bylaw dispute.
That as we learn more about Cannim Canada’s plans to grow cannabis in Enniskillen Township in the middle of a legal battle over new rules limiting how close the crop can be grown to homes.
In 2018, Tilray set up a cannabis operation in the greenhouse on Lasalle Line owned by the Enniskillen Pepper Company. Over the three years the company ran High Park Farms, neighbours complained of a skunk-like odour which was so overpowering it caused at least one resident to leave her home for extended periods of time. Cathy Brand, and her son, Trevor, fought for Tilray to control the odour and excess lights, taking some of the issues to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board.
But in 2021, Tilray merged with a Windsor-area company and moved the production from Enniskillen to Leamington. The greenhouse, according to its owners, returned to agricultural use and recently was granted a $40,000 tax refund because of the change.
After Tilray left, Councillors Mary Lynne McCallum and Judy Krall pushed for a new zoning bylaw amendment to limit cannabis production within 300 meters of a home. That would have made the Lasalle Line greenhouse off limits.
The Greydanus’ – the owners of the greenhouse – looked for an exemption to the rules, but that didn’t happen.
The decisions were made in September. But what municipal councillors said they were not aware of was Cannim Canada had taken up residence in the Lasalle Road greenhouse and was in the process of applying for a licence to cultivate a month before that.
The Independent has obtained a copy of the letter sent to local officials about Cannim’s plans.
It’s dated Aug. 28 and says the company began the process of applying for a licence with the federal government Aug. 8.
In the letter, William Worton, who is listed as the ‘Responsible Person’ for Cannim says the licence – which was granted by the federal government Oct. 27 – will allow Cannim to “possess cannabis, obtain dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants or cannabis plant seeds by cultivating, propagating and harvesting cannabis, dry, trim, mill and bulk package cannabis, perform analytical testing of cannabis, perform research and development within the listed authorized activities such as developing new growing procedures and to sell and distribute cannabis in accordance with subsection 11(5) of the Cannabis Regulations.
“All activities will be conducted at 4376 Lasalle Line, Petrolia, Ontario, Canada – N0N 1R0.”
Worton also added in the letter to officials with the OPP, fire and Enniskillen Township that “our intent to apply for a cannabis licence be kept confidential until Health Canada decides on a disposition for our application.”
Neither Enniskillen councillors Krall or McCallum saw the letter before the municipality voted on the zoning bylaw or the request for an exemption to it from Enniskillen Produce.
While both felt the information should have been shared with council, Krall says “I would not have changed my decision based on what I knew at the time.” McCallum agreed.
Both voted against the exemption for 4376 Lasalle Line at the Sept. 18 meeting.
The Greydanus’ have already filed an appeal to both the new zoning rules to the Ontario Land Tribunal. It begins the legal process Dec. 11.
But it appears Health Canada won’t be stepping in before that.
“Health Canada cannot suspend, revoke, or refuse to issue a licence because of a bylaw dispute,” says Health Canada Senior Media Relations Advisor Tammy Jarbeau in an email response to The Independent’s questions.
“It is outside of Health Canada’s jurisdiction to enforce provincial or municipal legislation and it is the responsibility of municipalities to enforce their bylaws with respect to cannabis production.”
But she says it is a requirement for prospective licence holders to provide a written notice to local authorities about their plans.
“Once licensed, all licensed cultivators and processors are expected to obey all relevant federal, provincial, and municipal laws and by-laws, including municipal by-laws governing zoning, location, odour, and noise. Provinces, territories and municipalities can implement any limitations on zoning, location, or other controls that they feel are appropriate in their jurisdictions,” Jarbeau added.
Worton did not reply to an email from The Independent asking about Cannim’s plans in Enniskillen, including whether the Australian company was aware of the pending legal action about the use of the greenhouse, if it was part of the discussions with the County of Lambton to obtain an exemption to the new zoning requirements or if the company asked the municipal leaders and administrators to delay the vote on the zoning changes until it could file its paperwork for the licence. The original public meeting was in January and the decision was not made until September.