Kevin Werner Ancaster News, Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Hamilton’s goal to prohibit existing cannabis grow operations from also having retail outlets on their properties in rural areas is expected to be prevented by provincial rules.
But the weight of the province’s rules didn’t prevent Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson and other councillors from agreeing to prohibit cannabis businesses from operating retail shops.
“I’m not going to follow the province off the cliff,” said Ferguson, who proposed the motion to prohibit retail cannabis operations in rural areas.
“If I get thrown in jail on this, I just want the top bunk. I don’t care. We’ve got to stand up to the province because they are wrong.”
As part of what was a routine approval of the city’s urban and rural official plans at the Dec. 8 planning committee to mesh the city’s planning policies with the province’s, the urban official plan states that cannabis grow operations are allowed to sell cannabis from their properties, similar in concept to allowing a farm to sell vegetables or fruit from its property.
But Ferguson, along with other councillors, including Flamborough’s Judi Partridge, opposed the idea.
Ferguson said, for instance, that when council allowed The Green Organic Dutchman to operate its now 166,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Jerseyville and Alberton roads, councillors promised nearby neighbours there would be no retail outlet at the same location.
“We told the public we wouldn’t be retailing out of there. So quite frankly they shouldn’t permit the retail of cannabis in agricultural areas,” said a frustrated Ferguson. “It’s just ridiculous that they expect the public to come out sporting their hot-rodded up Toyotas down Alberton Road to get their fix.”
Partridge said cannabis grow operations are popping up all over Flamborough, especially along Centre Road, taking over landscaping operations and greenhouses that used to grow flowers.
“They are making it clear they are going after the commercial operation and retail,” she said.
Contained in the city’s rural official plan, said Joanne Hickey-Evans, manager of planning police and zoning bylaw reform, is the stipulation that cannabis grow operators can only sell the product from what they grow on the property, similar to any other agricultural operation.
“They have to apply for a licence,” she said. “The idea here is the retail for cannabis would follow the exact rules so they would only sell their product and it would not be a free-for-all.”
Steve Robichaud, director of planning, said even if the municipality establish in local planning law that cannabis grow operators are prohibited from selling cannabis from their properties, “they could go to court for a legal challenge and seek a court order to proceed to force an issue.”
Robichaud told councillors a municipality, including Hamilton, “does not have the authority to differentiate this retail operation from any other retail operator that is permitted once the zoning bylaw is approved.
“(Provincial) legislation overrides any municipal restrictions.”
But that didn’t stop councillors from imposing the prohibition in the city’s planning document. The recommendation still has to be approved at the Dec. 16 council meeting.
Mountain Coun. John-Paul Danko, who questioned the merits of prohibiting retail cannabis outlets in rural areas, still approved Ferguson’s motion, if nothing else as a symbolic protest vote against how Ontario has handled the cannabis licensing process.
“The province has put us in an untenable position with cannabis retail,” he said.