By Marianne Cole
This article is being written in response to the one you may or may not have seen on the front page of last week’s Mountaineer.For those of you who have not seen it, the article dealt with a Clearwater County landowner’s opposition to the county’s proposed Land Use Bylaw pertaining to the production of medicinal marijuana.
The landowner, Craig McMorran, is protesting the fact that the potential by-law would restrict the production of medical marijuana to an industrial park. Earlier, Mr. McMorran had been quite vocal in his opposition, posting quite negative comments on Facebook and his site, Clearwaterfarming.com.
In his opposition, Mr. McMorran made the comment that Clearwater County does not put restrictions on the growing of other agricultural crops so why medicinal marijuana? In the Mountaineer article he is quoted as saying, “You plant the seed in the dirt. It’s the traditional agricultural model.” With those comments it became quite evident that Mr. McMorran is either grasping at straws or does not understand true agriculture.
Here are some points for “the rest/other side of the story”:
1. Medicinal marijuana is not your normal agricultural crop. Other ag. crops do not require special security clearance as does medicinal marijuana. According to Health Canada, all applicants, officers, directors, and persons in charge of a medicinal marijuana production operation must hold a valid security clearance involving a screening process through the RCMP. They must also notify the local fire department of their intentions re their proposed facility. Other requirements are to provide a detailed description of the methods used to record transactions involving the sale of their product and be subject to compliance and enforcement measures from Health Canada.
Clearly these restrictions (not required for “normal” ag. crops) indicate a distinct set of concerns by Health and Safety Canada.
2. Of eight other Alberta municipal jurisdictions researched, 5 restrict medicinal marijuana production to Industrial districts, 2 restrict it to Direct Control districts (meaning the allowing/permitting is controlled by council rather than the planning department) and 1 allows it as a discretionary use on agricultural land.
Again, others not only recognize the difference between marijuana and other crops, but also see the need for stricter control.
3. Some jurisdictions have further stipulated the need for secure fencing (6 foot chain link) and adequate security equipment (alarms and cameras).
4. Further evidence that medicinal marijuana is not a “normal” agricultural crop is the fact that in production facilities workers are seen wearing white “haz-mat” suits, gloves, and caps.
Certainly to liken medicinal marijuana to other agricultural cops is like comparing a Holstein to a Hereford. Yes, they are both bovines but distinctly different in use, care, production, and marketing. Such is the case with medicinal marijuana and barley, oats, wheat, etc.
In conclusion may I suggest and ask you to consider:
1. You are free to develop your own opinions on this matter.
2. Consider the pros and cons of having a medicinal marijuana facility next to you or out in the rural area of Clearwater County (considering safety, odor, and need for increased policing/monitoring,etc.).
3. Consider the benefits/detriments of losing more valuable farm land whose productive capabilities can likely benefit a significantly greater number of people either through crop production or grazing.
4. If you have time, research the new bylaw on the county’s website: Clearwatercounty.ca, then click on “Council Minutes and Agendas” in bottom left hand corner, then go to “Agendas, 27 Mar. 2018” and scroll down to page 62.
5. Consider attending the public hearing on this bylaw at 11:30AM, tomorrow, March 27 in County Council Chambers.
6. Consider calling your councillor or e-mailing them with your opinion/concerns. (Their contacts are on the website or you can call me (Marianne) at (403)729-2493 for their contact.
This council is striving to be proactive on this matter and the Planning Department has done extensive work in researching and preparing this bylaw. They are not outlawing the production of medicinal marijuana; they are merely establishing reasonable guidelines in the best interests for the residents of Clearwater County. Any support would be appreciated.
I apologize for the late sending of this info but things have been rather busy here and I wanted to have some research to go with the info. Better late than never. Have great day.