News

Control over medical marijuana grow-ops needed

By The Tribune

Wainfleet residents want township council to put licensing and bylaws in place to deal with a proposed medical marijuana grow-op facility, seen here Wednesday, at the end of Wilford Road. Dave Johnson/Welland Tribune

Wainfleet residents want township council to put licensing and bylaws in place to deal with a proposed medical marijuana grow-op facility, seen here Wednesday, at the end of Wilford Road. Dave Johnson/Welland Tribune

Wainfleet planning staff will consult with the township’s lawyer before a report comes back on a possible municipal licensing policy to deal with proposed medical marijuana grow-ops, council heard Tuesday night.

Township planner Sarah Ivins said the township doesn’t have a municipal licensing policy and staff had questions as to whether it could implement one to deal with a medical marijuana facility or that specific type of use.

“We want to make sure we cover all of our bases before we propose options for council … there’s a lot to consider before a staff report,” she said, adding one may be ready by the first week of October when council meets next.

Discussion about a municipal licensing policy or bylaws around medical marijuana facilities came about after a presentation by resident Graeme Ross on a marijuana grow-op at the east end of Wilford Road.

“I am here on behalf of the residents of east Wilford Road as a follow up to our presentation at the last council meeting. In just nine short days from our appeal for help at last council meeting, the proposed medical marijuana grow-op located at 61770 Wilford Rd., the former Railway Gardens Greenhouses, had a warrant served …,” said Ross.

He said Niagara Regional Police raided the facility and located and seized 668 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $668,000. Two men were arrested and charged by police.

“There were no Health Canada licenses in place. We are here tonight to reiterate our need for help. Just because there has been a successful warrant served and arrests made, we still need swift action on the part of council to get the setback bylaw enforced for this particular property and new municipal licensing and bylaw policies in place.”

Ross said if a municipal licensing policy were already in place the issue residents with this facility re-establishing its production would not exist. He said a new municipal licensing should include zero tolerance for offences and non-compliance.

“This seizure and arrests are a definite step in the right direction regarding this facility, keeping in mind an arrest does not mean a conviction. But we cannot view this warrant as an end to the issues with this facility …”

He said once a licence is issued it will be even harder for council and authorities to have access to the facility to assess what is happening inside.

“Not to mention once again putting our neighborhood at risk. Our fight to keep this facility and others like it out of our township is far from over and once again the time for action is now.

“I put it to council that if this were to occur across the street from your home, I suspect you would take the same kind of interest and have the same passion in this as we do. You were elected by us … and every street and road in Wainfleet is your street and road,” he said at the end of his presentation.

While council had no questions for Ross, Ald. Richard Dykstra asked Ivins about bylaws and licensing in place in other municipalities.

Ivins said Wainfleet residents gave her a copy of a Mississauga bylaw and that police told her it was one of the best bylaws that had seen in terms of regulating the facilities.

In response to a question from Mayor April Jeffs, the planner said the township does have a setback bylaw, which hasn’t been enforced and site specific zoning bylaws as well.

She said township’s lawyer was being consulted before any enforcement took place.

“If we press charges … we want to follow the right process.”

Ald. Ted Hessels suggested sending the owners of the Wilford Road property a copy of the setback bylaw so they would be aware of it.

“That would be proactive I think,” said Hessels.

Ivins said that was being looked into as well.