Spring has sprung and new growth won’t be far behind.
While this is good news to many, several Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) Electoral Area A residents are concerned about the health effects of a legal, outdoor grow operation in Parson.
They say the “overpowering, pungent odour” emanating from marijuana plants at Kootenay Krush Farms last summer caused headaches, lethargy and nausea and drove them indoors.
Also at issue is the fact that neither the federal nor provincial governments have responded to their complaints as to why there are stringent rules around odours from indoor grow ops but none on outdoor operations.
In an email response, a Health Canada spokesperson wrote that like other agricultural activities, marijuana plants may produce some odour, typically limited to the period during the outdoor growing season when the plants flower.
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Also noted was that all licensed cultivators and processors are expected to obey all relevant federal, provincial, and municipal laws and by-laws, including municipal by-laws governing zoning, location, odour and noise.
If an individual has a concern about odour, Health Canada encourages them to contact the cannabis licence holder directly, which the concerned residents of Parson have done. In addition to contacting the licence holder, individuals may contact Health Canada.
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But Electoral Area A director Karen Cathcart calls the email a canned response.
“They need to take people here seriously and look at the environment seriously as well,” she says. “There are so many regulations in place for indoor grow operations and not having odour regulations for outdoor grows is not acceptable.”
CSRD Planner Jan Thingsted says there is no zoning bylaw in effect for most of Electoral Area A, and that even if the regional district had such planning tools in place, they would largely not be applicable in this case because the grow operation is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and, thus protected under the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act.
The CSRD board of directors offered unanimous support to Cathcart and her constituents by approving a letter to the federal ministers of Health and Environment and Climate Change, and B.C. ministers of Environment and Climate Change, Health and Agriculture and Food.
In the March 6 letter, Chair Kevin Flynn pointed out that residents have attempted to share their concerns with the appropriate agencies (i.e. Farm Practices) and feel that they are being disregarded, ignored and discounted.
“There is general frustration and a lack of respect being felt,” he wrote, noting that the legalization of cannabis in Canada is relatively new and there undoubtedly will be unintended or unanticipated issues arising within the new industry. “The board of directors calls on the agencies included in this letter to cooperate and collaborate on the immediate development of an appropriate, empowered and resourced ability to investigate complaints such as those expressed by the residents of Parson, B.C.”
“We’re not gonna let this go; people are much more sophisticated when it comes to action on the environment and you can’t blame them,” added Cathcart. “That’s why we have the petition going to the House of Commons.”
An online petition reads, Whereas:
• The emissions from outdoor cannabis farming operations affect its surrounding residences;
• The gases being released are having negative impacts on people’s health; and
• Health Canada has no regulation on outdoor cannabis emissions.
We, the undersigned, Residents of Parson, British Columbia, call upon the Minister of Health to include outdoor grow emissions as part of the 2023 Cannabis Act review and require that Health Canada set rules for outdoor emission controls.
The petition, available at https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-4251 will be presented to the House of Commons by Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison, who has been supportive of the residents in getting their issues addressed.
Meanwhile, Health Canada reports that on Sept. 22, 2022, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions launched the legislative review of the Cannabis Act. An expert panel is leading the review and a report including findings or recommendations resulting from the review will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament within 18 months.
READ MORE: How is cannabis legalization going? Feds launch overdue review to find out
“The Panel will provide independent, expert advice to both ministers on progress made towards achieving the Act’s objectives and on the impacts of cannabis and the act on Indigenous Peoples and communities,” reads the March 9 email to this reporter. “This includes examining the appropriateness of different regulatory controls addressing issues related to the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis. The panel’s findings will help to identify priority areas to improve the functioning of the act and its report will be tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Health.”
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