Here we go again
There was a public planning meeting held Monday night to discuss an application for a zoning by-law amendment to allow (wait for it) a cannabis growing operation. As could be expected, all the old bugaboos were raised in the ensuing discussion. What about security? What about the smell? What about property values? And so on.
It has been more than a couple of years since cannabis, marijuana, weed (choose your word) was legalized, first medical marijuana and then recreational. And despite all the naysayers, there has not been a sudden rise in criminality associated with that legalization, except for those who choose to grow the crop illegally without following federal and provincial rules and regulations. We haven’t seen gangs of Reefer Madness-type teenagers roaming through town bothering people. In fact, I haven’t even caught so much as a whiff of the sweet-smelling smoke on my regular strolls around the downtown area.
The fact that cannabis was deemed illegal for years – (without any reasonable or plausible explanation, I might add) – has many people opposed to cannabis without actually knowing why. I guess it’s a case of “someone somewhere said it is bad so it must be bad.”
The proponents of the current application plan to use an old industrial building near Sandford, a building that for many years was used in the manufacture of trailers. It sits on 2.2 hectares. They say the cinder-block-and-steel windowless building is plenty secure for the operation, given that it will likely have to be enhanced with other security provisions such as fencing and surveillance cameras. The reason they need a zoning by-law amendment is that the township’s current by-law covering cannabis growing facilities requires that the building be located in the middle of 100 acres.
That particular by-law was passed when legalization was new and municipalities found themselves dealing with an issue they had never faced before. So, at least in Uxbridge’s case, they opted for extreme measures. But if you stop to think about it, that 100-acre rule takes 100 acres of prime agricultural land out of productive farming just so a building can sit in the middle of it. Lord knows, we’re losing agricultural land in southern Ontario at a fast enough pace already.
People living in the area have complained, and will continue to complain, about the odours that may come from the facility, despite the applicant’s explanation that any air being ventilated from the building will pass through a filtration system to eradicate most of the smell. Is it possible there might be some smell associated with the operation? Quite possibly, yes. But this is a rural area, where farm smells abound. We’ve all heard the stories about newcomers arriving in Uxbridge and then complaining about manure being spread on fields. Have any of you ever driven past the cabbage fields in the southwest corner of the township? The smell can be overwhelming. Have you ever been on a mushroom farm when the hands are turning over the huge piles of horse manure that is used in the mushroom beds? It’s the country, for Pete’s sake. We have natural smells, unlike the city where the only thing you can smell is diesel and exhaust fumes. (And really, would it be that bad…?)
Of course, opposition to this type of operation is understandable given some of the statements and comments coming out of the township offices. A recent report to council talked about the possibility of undertaking “proactive enforcement of municipal parks” where cannabis is not allowed, saying that officer presence would “assist in the deterrence of mischievous activities, behaviours and/or by-law violations often associated with cannabis use,” even though there is no evidence of such taking place!
There has also been talk about monitoring the new cannabis shop in town to see if there are any problems, although there have been no reports from anywhere in the province, to the best of my knowledge, about marijuana stores causing problems. In fact, all the cannabis shops I have visited in the past couple of years have been excellent examples of how businesses should be run.
It took many years for governments to see the light and remove the criminal stigma attached to cannabis. In fact, it was the prohibition of cannabis that led to the criminality. Somehow, I think it’s going to take many more years for people to lose their often-ill-informed prejudices against it.
Tell me, am I wrong?
Want to tell Roger Varley if he’s wrong or right?
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org