October 26, 2016 · 0 Comments
By Mark Pavilons
King Township planning staff are reviewing the policies and zoning, to create guidelines for medical marihuana production facilities. They’re trying to decide just where these operations should go, given some mixed messages by politicians.
Councillors received a staff report at their last council meeting, establishing location and zoning parameters.
The draft bylaw zoning amendment, which will return to council at a later date, includes limiting the use of such facilities to lands zoned Rural General and avoiding the use in Specialty Crop Areas of the Holland Marsh. It further provides for setback standards of the buildings and requires licensing by Health Canada.
Planning staff consider a medical marihuana production facility to be an agricultural use and believe they should be in rural areas, not industrial settings.
“There is little justification to modify the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw to provide for medical marihuana production on the Township’s industrial lands,” the report said.
Planner Sarah Allin noted many municipalities have dealt with this issue. In urban areas, they tend to designate them for industrial parks, while they’re considered agricultural operations in rural municipalities.
This is where Mayor Steve Pellegrini had a different take.
“I don’t believe it’s an agricultural use,” he said, noting it’s more of a pharmaceutical production and more suitable to an industrial location.
He believes such as facility would be out of place in the rural countryside. Given the traffic, demands on water and hydro, he’s adamant that they be located in industrial areas.
“It’s a business,” he said. “Let’s fill up our industrial land. I just can’t see it going in a rural area.”
Councillor and Holland Marsh farmer Avia Eek begged to differ.
Marihuana production involves growing, harvesting and processing – no different than carrots or onions, she argued.
She had an opportunity to tour a facility in Puslinch. It’s located in an agricultural area and uses aquaponics.
The mayor said perhaps a visit to another facility, like the one operating in Creemore, would be useful for staff.
A review of applicable provincial and municipal policy indicates a medical marihuana facility would be permitted under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Greenbelt Plan, and Township’s Official Plan.
The Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) underwent changes in April 2014, which carried through until this past August. Then, Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) came into effect and provides a framework for commercial production by licensed producers in secure and sanitary conditions.
After the announcement of the MMPR in 2014, King did receive a number of expressions of interest from farms, companies and individuals. There are currently two properties in King that have made an application for licensing under the new regulations. Currently, there are 20 licensed facilities in Ontario.
The ACMPR, staff pointed out, is administered entirely by the federal government and enforced by Health Canada inspectors. Municipalities can’t prohibit a licence, but they must abide by local zoning, building code and fire code regulations. Licences are issued by Health Canada for three years.
Staff will review the input received and fine-tune their recommendations for council’s approval at a later date.