Scents of out­rage

Pot pro­duc­ers face back­lash over skunky smell

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - ARMINA LI­GAYA

PEL­HAM, Ont. — David Ire­land is frus­trated by the “skunk smell” of pot that wafts down from two cannabis cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties roughly five kilo­me­tres away and lingers out­side his home, even in the win­ter.

“On hot hu­mid days, it’s worse be­cause they have to vent more of­ten ... You wouldn’t be able to open your win­dows,” he said.

The town of Pel­ham, Ont., where Ire­land lives — an hour away from Toronto, near Ni­a­gara Re­gion wine coun­try — has be­come a hot­bed for le­gal com­mer­cial pot grow­ers who have snapped up green­houses and con­verted them from flow­ers and veg­eta­bles to the more lu­cra­tive crop.

There are now six li­censed mar­i­juana pro­duc­tion op­er­a­tions in the com­mu­nity of 17,500 peo­ple, and one cannabis com­pany that has ex­pressed in­ter­est, ac­cord­ing to Pel­ham Mayor Marvin Junkin.

And while the com­mu­nity is re­cep­tive to the jobs the com­pa­nies bring, mount­ing com­plaints about odour and light pol­lu­tion at night have prompted res­i­dents such as Ire­land to form a group aimed at keep­ing the in­dus­try in check.

As a re­sult, Pel­ham has banned any new cannabis cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­i­ties and ex­ist­ing ones are pro­hib­ited from ex­pand­ing for one year, un­der an in­terim con­trol by­law put in place on Oct. 15 last year.

This ten­sion in Pel­ham high­lights the grow­ing pains of the cannabis in­dus­try as Cana­dian pot play­ers ramp up pro­duc­tion to meet do­mes­tic and global de­mand while bal­anc­ing the con­cerns of the com­mu­ni­ties where they op­er­ate.

The Green Or­ganic Dutch­man, based in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., has also faced re­sis­tance in Hamil­ton where it has a planned green­house ex­pan­sion.

Mean­while, more than 30 On­tario mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have de­cided they do not want cannabis re­tail stores in their com­mu­ni­ties ahead of a Jan. 22 dead­line. The do­mes­tic cannabis in­dus­try has ex­ploded in re­cent years in prepa­ra­tion for le­gal­iza­tion of adult-use pot last fall.

The cannabis mar­ket in Canada, in­clud­ing med­i­cal, il­le­gal and le­gal recre­ational prod­ucts is ex­pected to gen­er­ate up to $7.17 bil­lion in to­tal sales in 2019, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Deloitte re­port. Of that amount, le­gal sales are ex­pected to con­trib­ute more than half, up to $4.34 bil­lion, in the first year, Deloitte added.

Canada has emerged as the world leader in pot, with com­pa­nies ex­pand­ing their global reach as more coun­tries around the world le­gal­ize the drug for med­i­cal use.

The re­sult has been an eco­nomic bump in com­mu­ni­ties such as Leam­ing­ton, Ont. and Smiths Falls, Ont., help­ing to fill a void left be­hind by fac­to­ries that once pro­duced Heinz Ketchup and Her­shey choco­late, said Ry­er­son Univer­sity busi­ness pro­fes­sor Brad Pou­los.

There were 10,400 peo­ple em­ployed in cannabis-re­lated jobs in Canada in Novem­ber, up 7,500 or 266 per cent from a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing Sta­tis­tics Canada.

The push­back against the in­dus­try in Pel­ham is a con­straint on li­censed pro­duc­ers such as Can­nTrust, ham­per­ing their abil­ity to ex­pand and cash in on the cur­rent sup­ply crunch.

The light pol­lu­tion, rather than the pun­gent aroma, is the most press­ing con­cern, said long-time area res­i­dent Josh Miner.

“At night, it’s ridicu­lous ... I can walk in my back­yard and it’s bright as day,” he said.

Still, Miner rec­og­nizes the eco­nomic boost the in­dus­try brings and has po­si­tioned him­self to ben­e­fit from it. His busi­ness Fen­wick Pie Co. is near one of the cannabis cul­ti­va­tors in Pel­ham, and has seen an in­flux of cus­tomers as a re­sult.

“Peo­ple do need to re­al­ize that heavy in­dus­try is dead, or it’s on its way to dy­ing. And if peo­ple need jobs — that’s a job,” Miner said.

A pun­gent aroma is a com­mon by-prod­uct of any in­dus­try, he adds.

“The way I look at it, we’ve been an agri­cul­tural area for­ever and I grew up near a chicken farm,” Miner said.

“So there’s a neg­a­tive smell there as well, but no­body has stopped rais­ing chick­ens.”

TI­JANA MARTIN/CANA­DIAN PRESS

Cannabis plants at the Can­nTrust Ni­a­gara Green­house Fa­cil­ity in Fen­wick, Ont. in June 2018.

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