At council’s request, Tiny staff has cleared up visions for the future of cannabis regulation in the township, defining the plant as an agricultural-use crop.
On direction of council during the last meeting, Tiny staff were instructed to look into the regulation framework of Health Canada in regards to cannabis cultivation, in addition to seeing the actions of other municipalities in regulating the same.
Planning director Shawn Persaud gave a brief rundown of the report presented to council, touching upon definitions within acts, plans and guides across all levels of government, and looked at the townships of Oro-Medonte and Bradford West Gwillimbury, the town of Halton Hills, and the city of Barrie for their handling of the definitions.
“There’s a lot of good templates out there we can use,” said Persaud.
The federal Cannabis Act (2018) established its definition, including cultivation and processing as well as provincial regulations on use and distribution. In relation to the Tiny staff report, cannabis regulations to implement the act mentions multiple licences for individuals and/or organizations to allow for multiple operations in one location. Also, that outdoor cultivation is prohibited on sites adjacent to schools, daycares or other public places frequented by youth.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) released the Municipal Guide to Cannabis Legalization in 2018, which noted that “commercial-scale cannabis production is a form of agriculture,“ and “most zoning bylaw definitions of agriculture would include it”. However, the FCM guide does not provide a definition for cannabis production.
Likewise, a provincial policy statement last year doesn’t contain specific references to cannabis echoing the 2020 provincial growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Coun. Tony Mintoff was quick to point out that several of the points staff had referenced within the report either did not explicitly reference cannabis, or had been constructed and released prior to legalization in 2018.
“It seems to me that we’re on the same kind of slippery slope as we are with STRs (short-term rentals),” warned Mintoff, “and I think that some of these statements and directives and that type of thing (in the report) were issued previous to the problems that we’re experiencing, with these licence issuances and where they’re permitted to be cultivated and processed.”
Ultimately, it was the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) guidelines which Persaud provided as the clearest definition for council’s concerns.
“This is something that was looked at on a wider-ranged scale. We reached out to OMAFRA to get their opinion with regards to cannabis, as a crop,” Persaud emphasized.
‘When we received the information from OMAFRA, they did confirm that it is a crop, it is an agricultural use, it is an agricultural product, and as such it does fit into the agricultural definition in the (Tiny) bylaw.
“And in looking at best practices in other municipalities for this report, a lot of the municipalities came to the same conclusion which is why they proceeded to make those definition changes in their bylaws, to separate as a separate use, so that they wouldn’t fall into the general category of an agricultural use,” Persaud concluded.
Mintoff further asked if Health Canada had notified staff of any licensed operations to date in Tiny, with Persaud answering that no licences were issued but one owner within the township had made an application for cannabis cultivation.
A question was then raised to the director why a zoning amendment couldn’t be more efficient than the time-consuming process of changing Tiny’s official plan amendment.
“In cases where we do put regulations in the zoning bylaw for setbacks for sensitive uses and other regulatory framework around a proposed cannabis cultivation — or any other land use — it’s important to have the official plan policies as a higher level guidance,” Persaud said, “so that if we do receive a zoning amendment or a minor variance application to reduce those setbacks that we have in the zoning bylaw, then we have guidance and criteria to look at in order to assess if such an amendment or variance is appropriate or not for the township.”
Mayor George Cornell asked if the zoning bylaw amendment and official plan amendment could be forwarded separately, with Persaud replying that together they could be streamlined for the public meeting process at the least.
Persaud offered that staff could provide the draft for the fourth quarter of this year, and council unanimously carried the motion.
Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny township’s YouTube channel.