Cannabis-growing greenhouses create stinky situation for Mirabel residents

The mayor of Mirabel, Que., says he has been receiving as many as 10 calls a day from residents who are upset about the smell of cannabis in the air.

Municipality considering moratorium on pot-producing greenhouses after citizens complain of odour

While this cannabis-growing facility is in Ontario, a similar operation in Mirabel, Que., has generated outrage from residents who are sick of the smell. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The mayor of Mirabel, Que., northwest of Montreal, says he has been receiving up to 10 calls per day from residents frustrated by the pungent smell of cannabis.

Two more companies recently obtained federal permits to grow the newly legal substance, and at least 10 other growers are scouting Mirabel's vast expanses of farmland for a place to set up operations.

But complaints about the skunky aroma are leading officials to consider imposing a moratorium on the construction of cannabis-producing greenhouses.

"When the prevailing winds do not go from east to west, when there is no wind, the odours may spread to the urban centre of Saint-Canut, two and a half kilometres from the greenhouses," said Mirabel Mayor Jean Bouchard.

The problem lies in the greenhouses themselves because it is often "very hot and very humid," leaving operators with no choice but to open ventilation panels, the mayor said.

Bouchard said the Mirabel's council may, as early as Monday, temporarily prohibit the construction of any more greenhouses on its territory.

"We need these companies to show us that there will be no odour problems," he said.

A different kind of smell

The stench comes from Vert Mirabel, a joint venture between Serres Stéphane Bertrand and Canopy Growth.

Recognized for its pink tomatoes, the Bertrand family has been producing medicinal cannabis in its greenhouses for about a year.

"We thought there was enough distance," said Bouchard of the stretch between the grow-op and Saint-Canut.

"Entrepreneurs have trouble controlling odours in greenhouses."

Mirabel Mayor Jean Bouchard says he is getting up to 10 calls a day from residents complaining about the smell of cannabis. (Vincent Champagne/Radio-Canada)

A representative of Vert Mirable told Radio-Canada that the company is taking the citizen complaints seriously.

Filters were installed inside and outside the greenhouses to help alleviate the problem, the representative said.

Nearly 90 per cent of Mirabel land is used for agriculture, meaning residents are accustomed to the smell of manure. 

But the new stench is something else entirely and has prompted concern among homeowners that property values will go down.

"Federal government made it legal and now we live with it in Quebec but, at the municipal level, we are left with this particular odour," said Bouchard.

Not a health hazard, doctor says

Dr. Éric Goyer, public health director for the Laurentians, met with Vert Mirabel recently to find ways to mitigate the smell.

After speaking with experts, Goyer concluded the odour itself does not pose a health hazard, though it can lead to discomfort — such as headaches or nausea.

He added that this kind of discomfort is not uncommon in farming areas.

"We can see such nuisances in other types of agricultural production, such as hog farms or industrial production of pulp and paper, but cannabis is relatively new to us," he said.

Based on a report from Radio-Canada