South Dundas to regulate cannabis operations

South Dundas Coun. Archie Mellan (far right) makes a point during a committee of South Dundas council meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. The municipality is looking to put regulations in place to deal with the growing problem of cannabis. (South Dundas/YouTube via Newswatch Group)

MORRISBURG – After having a major marijuana growing operation taken down northeast of Iroquois, South Dundas council is trying to figure out how to regulate similar cannabis operations and future ones going forward.

The problem is Health Canada is authorizing marijuana growing licences without any consultation with municipalities, a committee of council heard Thursday morning.

Mayor Steven Byvelds says there have been challenges and “numerous complaints” and that council is being “reactive now” to the situation. He added that the municipality has already sold property to a “potential processor” of cannabis at the “end of the industrial area” so that “ball has already started rolling.”

The council committee heard from an J.L. Richards Chief Planner Tim Chadder Thursday morning that while other municipalities have zoning regulations in place regarding cannabis operations, “none have been tested” in court.

Coun. Archie Mellan is frustrated that marijuana growers are “taking advantage of agriculture (zoning) to stick something in our face we don’t want.”

Chief Building Official Nicole Lowey acknowledged there’s a “hole in the system” when Health Canada is issuing licences without circulating the process through municipalities. Since operations are being met under the zoning bylaw, the municipality’s hands are tied.

Byvelds says the bigger operations “seem to have some criminal organizations behind them” and added that many of the people are coming from the GTA to rural Ontario where the “country hicks” don’t know them to carry out their activity.

The mayor pointed to other examples of operations like Rowena like County Road 2 and Flagg Road, the east end of Morrisburg and in Glen Stewart. The Rowena Road operation was taken down Sept. 21 with the arrests of 13 people.

While saying there needs to be some sort of controls in place, the mayor says open field regulations could be a challenge especially when it comes to odour management.

Byvelds anticipates whatever regulation they put in place, it will likely be challenged. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

Coun. Don Lewis says regulations are needed because it’s “getting out of hand” when the “quite potent” operations can be smelled during a Sunday drive.

J.L. Richards will come back to council in the near future with potential zoning amendments and site plan control measures to deal with cannabis operations.