WINCHESTER – On the cusp of welcoming a major marijuana grower to the municipality, the Township of North Dundas is first taking aim at Health Canada and its process for handing out medical cannabis certificates.

It isn’t the first time the township has intervened in this type of matter, having previously imposed repairs on a home heavily damaged by a grow-op, an illegal one broken up by the local police force.

This is the first time, however, that North Dundas has made a point of going after the federal agency, calling for a list of addresses of medicinal growing program registrants to make certain Ontario Building Code and fire safety requirements are being met.

The effort is being made despite being told the health agency won’t comply due to “privacy concerns,” which came to light at Tues., May 8’s meeting. North Dundas’ resolution was passed by a recorded vote, requesting that Health Canada inform municipalities, fire officials, and police of legal growing sites.    

The township-led legislation draws attention to the fact local governments must ensure buildings within their jurisdiction are safe, and this includes those used in marijuana production.

Spurring on the swift township response was the recent discovery of the number of plants each individual licensee can grow inside a home, no matter the square footage, and how the process leaves it to the applicant to inform municipal officials.

This was the case in the Forestwood Heights subdivision north of Winchester where licences were paired, each allowing for 146 plants on the property. Countless neighbour complaints led to the OPP investigating, only to discover the operation was legal, despite the increased electrical needs and the state of the home.

“We want to see it be Health Canada notifying municipalities rather than the applicants,” Calvin Pol, the township’s director of planning, building and bylaw, said. “We don’t know if this is even occurring at all… We haven’t seen any notifications, and we know there are people in North Dundas with [marijuana growing] approval.”

Pol was pointed in his assessment of the situation, not pointing criticism at cannabis users, but rather taking a firm line in the area of building safety.

“People can get licences for dwellings, which could be apartments. That brings to mind indoor air quality, humidity and safety, especially wiring… are they running a hundred extension cords?” he questioned. “It’s really for the health of the people inside… because it can be owners or tenants with the licence. It’s a safety issue we’re worried about.”

Added Mayor Eric Duncan: “From a personal level, I have no problem with the approval of use. I support it from a medical perspective. But, 146 plants in a residential home is a bit much… there should be caps. It’s a problem with the licences.”

The mayor’s softened message drew the ire of one attendee in the public gallery, who later identified himself as Brian Campbell-Kelly. Despite being told he wasn’t free to speak during the meeting, Campbell-Kelly tried to talk over the politicians, at one point shouting at them, noting “this is a residential neighbourhood; they are growing marijuana.”

Campbell-Kelly’s home is in the aforementioned subdivision, and when he learned of the marijuana growing on the property, he shared in his fury in an email and telephone conversation with Duncan.

“It has to be banned, period,” he shouted out once more before ultimately quieting down following the mayor’s insistence that he do so.

Councillor Tony Fraser, also the deputy-chief of the Winchester detachment of the North Dundas Fire Service, then wondered aloud if the municipality is “on an island” in terms of whether other local governments are being informed about these practices.

“I don’t know if notifications are actually being made,” Pol responded.