Central Alberta’s Lacombe County approves cannabis production facility

Lacombe County’s municipal planning commission has approved an application to set up a 5,000-square-foot cannabis operation on a rural property northwest of Bentley. (Photo from Lacombe County)

A cannabis production facility has been approved in Lacombe County.

The county’s municipal planning commission unanimously approved an application by High Grade Farms Inc. to build and operate a 5,300-square-foot production facility on a 92-acre site about 20 km northwest of Bentley.

An existing homestead and workshop will be used as part of the operation and a new greenhouse for cannabis cultivation will be built, says the company’s application. About 67 acres not needed for cannabis production will be used to grow hemp.

High Grade Farms Inc. was previously approved for a 15,000-square-foot cannabis operation at the same location.

County planner and development officer Peter Duke said there four letters of opposition from neighbouring residents were received, mostly concerned about potential odour and security at the site and the potential impact on water supplies.

High Grade Farms responded in detail to all of the concerns raised by residents.

As to security, the company said federal rules are very strict and it “has a very aggressive security plan and will continuously work with the local authorities to ensure the communities safety.”

The site will be monitored at all times with video surveillance, entry and access to the property will be strictly monitored and “perimeter intrusion protection in place.”

So far, no cannabis production facility across Canada has been broken into.

“This could be due to the high level of security maintained on and around the production area,” the company said, adding that growing cannabis plants have very little value. The value is in finished and packaged products.

Ventilation systems will be installed to reduce odour from the facility, the company said.

“Being that the operation is to reside in an agricultural setting, HGF believes that the community would not be affected any more than the current odours expressed in the area currently.”

The operation will also use much less water than other common rural businesses such as hog farms, the company said.

Duke said the planning commission was confident that concerns had been addressed by the company.

“We’ve found with these smaller facilities we haven’t had any complaints with our existing ones,” he said.

The county has two cannabis operations requiring the municipality’s approval already operating.

When the legislation was changed to allow these types of operations, the county received six applications but only two proponents have followed through so far.

“I think there’s a couple of factors there. Probably the hurdles of actually getting your licence were maybe a little more difficult than people thought. And maybe the market demand wasn’t as high as what was projected.”

Municipalities are not necessarily aware of all of the cannabis operations within their borders. Under the federal government’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, municipal approval is not required for those operations, which are geared towards those who wish to grow cannabis for their own medical use or for others who have registered with Health Canada.

“We may have quite a number of them and we just don’t know about them,” he said.

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