DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Councillors provided a letter of no objection to a group seeking to bring a medical marijuana production facility to the township this week, allowing the application to move forward through the stringent application process mandated by Health Canada regulations.
Prior to council granting a letter of no objection, a meeting between the proponents of the site and area residents was held in Zephyr on Wednesday, April 2.
During the meeting, the group seeking to bring the facility to a farm on Durham Rd. 30 answered several questions and concerns from local residents regarding security measures at the site, which would include a fence around the perimeter of the barn, as well as 24-hour monitoring of the site.
"This isn't a facility that people will come to, this is a facility where it will be grown and then shipped out in a secure vehicle," said Kandavel Palanivel, the pharmacist who is also the proponent of the project, adding that the marijuana would be stored in a vault within the fortified barn. According to Health Canada, the amount of medical marijuana users in Canada is expected to increase nearly ten-fold over the next decade, from just over 50,000 users currently to almost 500,000 by 2024.
Under the proposal, only a barn on the site would be used for the production of medical marijuana, with the remaining 100 acres continuing to be used for growing crops of corn and soybeans. The group has also been in talks to place trees or a berm around the site to provide added privacy to nearby residents. As well, a pharmaceutical-grade charcoal filter would be used to mitigate any odours from the facility.
At council's meeting on the morning of Monday, April 7, Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy commented that the public meeting alleviated many of the concerns of nearby residents, but with medical marijuana being a relatively new industry, the process will continue to evolve over time. "Generally speaking, I feel that residents were comforted by the presentation. It's not a perfect world and everybody isn't always happy," commented Councillor Molloy. "It's a different industry and there's a lot of questions, but I think most of them have been answered. But, I still don't know if I'd want it next door to me."
Councillors were pleased to see the change in medical marijuana production into a more secure, licensed approach instead of the current model, which allows users to grow plants on their own property. "I think what you're doing is going to lead to more control. I don't think what's happening currently is working, or they wouldn't be looking at changing it," said Ward 1 Councillor Bev Northeast.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle offered similar sentiments on the matter.
"My biggest concern is security. It's better to have it controlled and licensed instead of growing it in backyards. I would support this measure," said Councillor Mantle. Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor noted that while some may wish to see the operation housed in an industrial location instead of an agricultural setting, doing so would be of minimal benefi t to Uxbridge. As well the mayor commended the group on their open dialogue with residents as well as township staff.
"The reason I don't want to see it in an industrial area is that we have such little available space left that's zoned industrial, and it'd still be taxed as agricultural, so it's of little benefi t to the municipality," said Mayor O'Connor. "I think the town has done due diligence and the proponent has been very forthcoming."
A motion by Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse to grant a letter of no objection was passed unanimously by councillors. The group seeking to bring the medical marijuana facility to Uxbridge told The Standard that a six to 12 month timetable for the facility to be up and running would be "reasonable." But, they added that there is the prospect of it being later as more than 500 applications for licensed medical marijuana facilities have already been submitted to Health Canada.
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