Locate marijuana growers on brownfield land: councillor

A Hamilton councillor has an innovative use for the city’s many brownfield sites – let growers use them for medical marijuana.
The city of Hamilton is grappling with what sort of zoning and building code regulations it should have for medical marijuana growers. One councillor suggests the possibility of offering up the city's brownfields.

A Hamilton councillor has an innovative use for the city’s many brownfield sites — let growers use them for medical marijuana.

With new federal regulations, producers are popping up around Hamilton wanting federal licences to grow medical marijuana. Coun. Terry Whitehead wants to look at offering up some of the city’s brownfields for that purpose.

Growing medical marijuana requires a large building with tight security. Meanwhile, Hamilton has a lot of unused buildings that fit the bill.

“When you start building those sorts of block buildings in an agricultural area, does it make sense?” said Whitehead, who represents Ward 8.

“We’ve got buildings that are virtually abandoned that would probably meet the requirements.”

As of April 1, federal regulations will change regarding medical marijuana. Currently, patients can get it from individuals or one of four licensed producers in Canada. Under new regulations, patients can buy from licensed growers only.

That means more producers are setting up shop and requesting federal licences. City staff couldn’t say Tuesday how many have filed notices of intent in Hamilton, but Coun. Judi Partridge says she’s heard of about five. That includes a newly constructed facility in her area of Ward 15 in Flamborough. Neither Partridge nor city staff would reveal the exact location of the plant.

The city is now grappling with what to zone these facilities, and what sort of planning and building code measures will regulate them. The zoning is important — it will determine how much each facility pays in tax dollars, and where the facilities can be located.

On Tuesday, the planning committee voted that when the city receives a notice of intent, ward councillors and the building department have to be informed. No one at the city building department knew about the new rural facility in her ward until a letter landed on her desk.

It’s largely uncharted territory for the city, which doesn’t know if it can even set a limit on how many growing operations there are. Partridge has concerns.

“What’s it going to mean security wise?” she said. “What’s it going to mean in terms of the impact on other residents and farms in the area? What’s it going to mean in terms of policing? We don’t have any of that information.”

How these buildings are zoned will also dictate how easy it is to locate them in brownfields, said Joanne Hickey-Evans, a manager in the planning department.

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