Complaints about smelly cannabis not just a problem in Gatineau

People in Gatineau, Que., aren't the only ones in Canada frustrated with the skunky stink from some cannabis grow operations.

Federal minister says odour regulations are 'quite strict,' but local politicians say enforcement is lacking

Some cannabis grow operations are having trouble managing the skunky smell emanating from their facilities. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

People in Gatineau, Que., aren't the only ones in Canada frustrated with the skunky stink from nearby cannabis grow operations.

Production facilities have continued to pop up since the drug was legalized across the country last year, but some of their new neighbours aren't pleased with the smell.

"In my experience, the smell of the actual growing of the plant does not represent health concerns, but at the same time I fully accept that it can affect the quality of people's lives and their enjoyment of their properties," said Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair in a recent interview.

Licensed producers are obligated to "prevent odours and other annoyances and pollutants from emanating from their premises," and the regulations to that effect are "quite strict," he said.

But not all producers are heeding them.

Gatineau, Que., resident Virginie Roussin lives down the street from Hexo, a cannabis producer. Roussin says the smell of pot production at the plant is overwhelming. (Radio-Canada)

In Gatineau, the  smell from a Hexo plant has become so intolerable that Virginie Roussin no longer hangs her laundry out to dry or leaves her windows open.

"Last Sunday we opened a bit of my son's room [window] and we closed the door. Afterward when we came back at night, it was like we smoked a joint in the room," she said.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning reached out to some municipalities west of Ottawa also dealing with the same problem.

'Somebody has to step up'

Rich Coleman, the MLA for Langley East in B.C., said there are four cannabis facilities causing a big stink in two communities.

"It is actually very bad. I have one family where the wife ... leaves the home up to four times a week to go stay with a relative because of the migraine headaches that the odour is bringing forward," he said.

"Somebody has to step up and either shut these places down or make them get their act together, because if they're allowed to just go on and not be enforced, it will continue to be a large problem."

Langley East MLA Rich Coleman says someone needs to step up to enforce the law that cannabis producers must control their odours. (CBC)

Coleman said the company involved isn't tackling the problem with proper air filtration, but is instead trying to mask the odour with a sweet smell.

"Basically what they're doing is they're putting Febreeze-smelling-type oil through these cannons to try and mitigate the smell, which just makes it a sweeter stink. It doesn't change anything," he said.

He's written to the federal attorney general and the health minister to try to get the odour control law enforced.

'Getting better'

In Pelham, Ont., which sits in the Niagara Region, Mayor Marvin Junkin said there are two big cannabis operations that have been generating complaints, but that the situation is slowly improving.

"I would actually say in the last six months they have both tried to become good corporate citizens, and they are slowly but surely investing more money into their exhaust system. So it is actually getting better here," he said.

In October 2018, the municipality passed a bylaw forbidding any new cannabis grow-ops from setting up for a year, in order to allow municipal staff to study what's being done elsewhere and come up with adequate bylaws.

"We've got a long way to go to catch up to European greenhouse technology," Junkin said.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning


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