by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News
Hamilton bylaw officers will now have the ability to crack down on odour and lighting complaints against non-licensed cannabis grow operations.
Councillors recently approved a revised public nuisance bylaw that allows the enforcement of odour and lighting complaints against unlicensed cannabis operations.
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark, whose ward includes an unlicensed grow operation in a former nursery across the street from Pros Golf Centre on Green Mountain Road, said the stench coming from the former greenhouse was “absolutely disgusting.”
He said at times residents in a new subdivision across Upper Centennial Parkway were forced to stay indoors because the skunky odour prevented them from enjoying their backyards.
Dale Biehn, who lives near the greenhouse facility on Green Mountain Road across from the golf centre, told councillors during a public meeting a year ago he has complained for years to city officials about the “suffocating” odour of marijuana that has forced his family to remain in the house they have lived in since 1962.
“This type of operation does not belong here so close to the city,” said Biehn. “It belongs in an industrial area.”
Clark saw a loophole in federal legislation whereby Health Canada would not enforce odour, dust and other local complaints. The municipal government “could fill the void if a senior level of government wasn’t regulating an area,” he said.
Health Canada has, since 2001, recognized a person’s right to grow cannabis for personal medical use.
Clark said there are three cannabis grow operations in upper Stoney Creek that will be turning greenhouses into grow operations.
“It’s a real challenge,” he said.
Ken Leendertse, director of licensing, said after reviewing how the city could enforce neighbourhood cannabis complaints, staff hit on revising the public nuisance bylaw.
“It will give us some tools to at least look for some compliance,” said Leendertse. “If they are impacting the neighbourhood and there are ways to mitigate the circumstances we have some legal ability to hold them accountable.”
If convicted under the bylaw an individual could face a $5,000 fine and a corporation would see a $50,000 fine.
The Municipal Act allows municipalities to regulate issues such as noise, dust and odour. Hamilton has specific rules overseeing noise and dust, but not odour.
The Environmental Protect Act allows the province to investigate odour complaints.
Leendertse said individuals with medical cannabis licenses – each allowed 520 plants – have banded together and started cannabis facilities across the city with up to 2,000 plants or more. If there’s an excess of 2,000 plants, bylaw officers can only remove the additional plants leaving the rest, he said.
City Solicitor Nicole Auty was confident the city’s bylaw could withstand a legal challenge. There were concerns from other councillors that bylaw officers would be charging individuals growing a small number of plants for medicinal purposes within their own homes.
“It is not intended to infringe on the rights of an individual to use it,” she said.
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge applauded the bylaw. She said in her ward there are three cannabis grow operations that have located in greenhouses near homes.
Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said initially when he read the proposed bylaw, “I came out with a fist pump.”
But he soon discovered the bylaw only covers unlicensed grow operations. Because of provincial legislation that designates licensed cannabis grow ops as food crops, the municipality can’t enforce any odour, lighting or other complaints, he said.
“And that is causing a lot of distress in my area,” said Ferguson.
Councillors added a motion introduced by Ferguson, to request the province allow municipalities to enforce odour and lighting complaints against licensed grow operations as well.