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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Canopy Growth challenges town cannabis bylaw

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s cannabis bylaw is being challenged by Canopy Growth Corp. 

The town received a notice of appeal last Friday from Canopy Growth, one of the country’s largest cannabis producers, Lord Mayor Betty Disero told council’s committee of the whole meeting Monday.

Canopy Growth owns Tweed Farms on Concession 5 Road where its one-million-square-foot facility grows medical marijuana. The company also purchased Coyote’s Run winery for $10 million in May.

In an email response to The Lake Report, Jordan Sinclair, vice-president of communications for Canopy Growth, confirmed the company has some concerns with an interim control bylaw passed in June, but wouldn’t disclose any more details.

“We enjoy a positive working relationship with the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Sinclair said. “This appeal is our way of officially communicating concerns we have with the interim control bylaw to the town. We look forward to continuing a collegial dialogue on those matters.”

In June, council extended the existing interim control bylaw for one more year. It prohibits new cannabis operations and expansions anywhere in town.

In the meantime, the town’s cannabis committee, comprised of councillors Wendy Cheropita, Stuart McCormack and Erwin Wiens, has been working on creating a draft bylaw, which was presented to council Monday.

The draft bylaw states any cannabis facility should only operate in an industrial-designated zone and have an odour prevention protocol to mitigate any smells. Any visible lighting should be restricted during night hours. The facility must be set back at least 250 metres from neighbouring properties, residential or commercial development zones, public or private schools, day nursery, places of worship, designated heritage building or district.

According to the staff report, the only industrial lands in NOTL are located in the Glendale Community Zoning District.

Town staff recommended council adopt official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to regulate cannabis cultivation and send the report to the town’s legal counsel for review.

Disero said she would support the staff report and urged counclllors to adopt the new bylaw.

“If we lose the interim control bylaw, we have nothing in place,” Disero said, noting council would waste time sending the report to its lawyer and arguing over what should be done instead of adopting the bylaw.

“The only thing that protects us at this moment is the interim control bylaw. If it’s challenged, if we lose that challenge, then we have nothing in its background in effect that would replace it automatically,” she said.

Restricting the location of cannabis operations also can be challenged to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, the staff report said.

When explaining the rationale behind limiting cannabis cultivation to industrial zones only, Cheropita said it was to protect the “tender fruit, food and grape and wine industry.”

“Cannabis doesn’t require good soil,” Cheropita told councillors. “Cannabis is considered part of agriculture but it’s treated differently because it does require legal approvals … It was all about protecting food sources and our agricultural crops.”

If the bylaw is approved by council, prohibiting cannabis cultivation in all agricultural areas can be challenged as non-consistent with provincial policy and as not conforming with the Greenbelt Plan, according to the report.

Health Canada issues licences to producers selling cannabis for medical purposes. For producers wishing to open a retail store and sell cannabis for recreational purposes, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario issues the licence.

In addition, the Farming and Food Production Protection Act states no bylaw can restrict a normal farm practice carried on as part of an agricultural operation.

“If you’re trying to regulate cannabis or any particular crop, you’re exposing yourself to some risk of having the bylaw struck down,” Craig Larmour, the town’s director of community and development service, told the council.

The committee of the whole deferred making a decision on the draft bylaw to the next council meeting on Monday, Sept. 16.

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