Rural Ottawa farmer wants to swap veggies for marijuana
Plans up for debate at city committee Thursday
- City council approved the zoning amendment for the project on Feb. 14.
An Ottawa farmer and his business partners want to turn a vegetable farm in rural Ottawa into a marijuana facility.
In the first step of what is a multi-jurisdictional approval process, a rezoning application goes before the city of Ottawa's agriculture and rural affairs committee on Thursday.
If the city approves it, the group plans to seek a medical marijuana licence from Health Canada.
Peter Abboud's farm on Ramsayville Road, between the Greenbelt and Metcalfe, currently produces tomatoes, beans and cucumbers for various Ottawa farmers markets.
Abboud is partnering with LiveWell Foods Canada and proposes converting the vegetable production to cannabis cultivation, doubling the current greenhouse space.
The proposal involves two phases, with the conversion and retrofit of about 70,000 square feet of greenhouses and other buildings in the first phase, and about 600,000 square feet in phase two. The rezoning proposal requires the approval of Ottawa city council.
Ottawa city councillor George Darouze supports the project in his ward and said he's only heard from a couple residents who are concerned about the project.
"It was about water and drainage. One resident was concerned about security," said Darouze.
Darouze sees huge potential for economic development from the proposed cannabis operation, including the promised creation of between 700 to 800 jobs.
22 licenses in 6 months
In the past six months 22 medical marijuana operations have been granted federal licences in Ontario to produce cannabis,
Several more licence applications are still pending.
Earlier this week another eastern Ontario community, Chesterville, welcomed a proposed marijuana operation set to grow inside a former Nestlé plant.
Ivan Ross Vrána, who helps emerging companies manage the regulatory process, used to work in the medical marijuana division at Health Canada.
He said there is a wide range of producers seeking approval, from big operations such as Canopy Growth in Smiths Falls to small, independent operations.
Vrána said the million-dollar question is whether the number of suppliers will match the expected demand after recreational marijuana is officially legal.
If Abboud's farm gets the rezoning approval it seeks at the agriculture committee, the application will then go to Ottawa city council later in February.
Darouze said he's hearing interest from other budding marijuana entrepreneurs in his ward, though this is the first serious proposal.
- According to a previous version of this story, the LiveWell Foods proposal involves a one-million-square-foot marijuana growing operation. In fact, the proposal involves about 667,000 square feet of converted greenhouses and other buildings.Feb 13, 2018 3:58 PM ET