Clearview micro grower appeals cannabis bylaw

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A micro cannabis cultivator is appealing the Township of Clearview’s recent passing of a zoning bylaw amendment to restrict the way cannabis is grown in the municipality saying it goes against the government’s objective to encourage a diverse market of large and small players.

The appeal has been filed by Duntroon area property owner Sarah Curtosi, on behalf of LifeFood Nutritionals, a 96-acre biodynamic certified organic farm that focuses on crop diversity and land regeneration through organic practices, working over the past eight years to gradually restore its farmland on County Road 124. The Canadian female-owned small business farms industrial hemp, medicinal herbs, market vegetables and plans to apply organic methodology towards its federally licensed micro cannabis cultivation endeavour.

“The passing of this bylaw and how it is written will set up micro cultivators for failure within the industry. They will either be forced to change zoning, resulting in massive tax increases or be forced to grow outdoor cultivated cannabis, which holds little market value,” wrote Curtosi at the time of a public meeting for the bylaw amendment.

Last year, an interim control bylaw was enacted at the encouragement of local residents who were concerned about a cannabis free-for-all in the township. When cannabis was legalized it was categorized as an agricultural crop in Clearview resulting in few controls, a sprawling cannabis production facility (which has since announced it will be closing), and some unhappy neighbours.

LifeFood Nutritionals is working with the township to bring forward its plans to build a greenhouse and processing facility, but plans have been delayed by the review process.

“To clarify, we have great respect for this township, its staff and council. All conversations with the township over the past three years have been courteous and respectful,” said LifeFood Nutritionals in a statement provided to The Echo. “We recognize how difficult it must be to try and write a bylaw for such a quickly evolving industry and we do agree with the township’s decision to set such high barriers proposed in this bylaw for large scale cannabis licensed producers.”

“We agree with many citizens in this township that cannabis mega greenhouses do not suit the charm of Clearview. However, federally licensed micro cultivators operate very differently and are minuscule by comparison. We felt that this bylaw has unfairly treated small farmers looking to supplement their operations by being pushed out of the existing local market, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we as a township be supporting local independently owned small businesses? We don’t all have to agree that cannabis legalization is a positive, but we must uphold our rights to a fair market and to allow for local business diversity.”

The initial staff-proposed bylaw was workable, they say, but after the public meeting when a revised bylaw came to council and passed, LifeFood Nutritionals was no longer eligible for a 400 square metre greenhouse and a 200 square metre drying/processing area. The operation is proposed on a 4,000 square metre area, taking up one of the 96 acres, with a facility a fraction of the size of Peace Naturals on Concession 12.

“Our current zoning allows us to operate substantially sized farm related businesses, virtually every business we are zoned for would cause more disruption to the neighbours and environment than our cannabis endeavour,” said LifeFood Nutritionals.

“The latest version of this bylaw would force us to submit for a zoning amendment and have our project potentially held up for another two years in red tape and will cost us an excessive amount in consultation and permit fees. Not to mention the loss of time and revenue from having to go through this process. If we had some assurances that our project would be given the green light after all this extra work and expense then we wouldn’t have appealed the bylaw.”

LifeFood Nutritionals continues to work toward an amicable solution and hopes to avoid a hearing with the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Principals felt they had no choice but to appeal.

“Clearview’s proposed bylaw also jeopardizes federal legislation that protects the rights of legitimate medical patients to grow their own cannabis: The terminally ill, those in constant pain, epilepsy patients, cancer patients and PTSD survivors. We know some

of these people personally and they need someone to help stand up for their rights. This proposed bylaw has caused these same people a great deal of conflict as they want to voice their opinions on the matter but have kept silent out of fear from penalties they could face for continuing to grow their own medicine. We have seen repeatedly from firsthand experience how beneficial cannabis can be for those that struggle with ailments. It’s unfortunate that cannabis still has such a negative stigma in this township and, despite all its health benefits, people are still trying to keep it from those in need.”

A hearing date has not been set but a case management conference has been scheduled for June 6.

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