NIAGARA FALLS — With the production of medical marijuana expected to become a $2-billion industry that could provide much needed jobs, city politicians have decided Niagara Falls wants in.
The question is, just how will the city go about creating the climate for the establishment of a medical marijuana facility in the city?
As it turns out, councillors were split on how to integrate such a facility in the city.
It was decided that the city would tackle applications on a site-by-site basis rather than apply a single set of standards. Council voted 5-4 in favour of that approach, with Mayor Jim Diodati breaking the deadlock after council split down the middle, with some preferring that a standard setback be included.
A report from staff detailed just where a facility could be located using varying setbacks from what was referred to as other “sensitive land uses” such as schools, hospitals and agricultural uses. Setbacks used by staff ranged from 20 to 300 metres, and each time the setbacks were increased, fewer options became available.
But rather than opt for setbacks, council approved a motion put forward a motion by councillor Carolynn Ioannoni that the city look at potential facilities on a site-by-site bases.
“I don’t think we’re going to be inundated,” she said. “We’re not going to get 800 applications.”
Diodati agreed with the councillor.
“It’s like when we licensed body rubs,” he said. “Everyone thought they would be everywhere, but we don’t even have all the licences filled.”
Coun. Wayne Campbell echoed Ioannoni’s belief that the city won’t be in a position where there’ll be a deluge of applications.
“We’re not talking about the opening of a McDonald’s where there’s one on every other block,” he said.
Under regulations put forward from Health Canada in 2013, any applicant needs to supply a letter of support from the municipality where the facility is going to be located.
Coun. Victor Pietrangelo, however, opposed the motion and wanted setbacks included.
“I believe there needs to be minimum separation,” he said
Coun. Mike Strange said he wasn’t against a facility but wanted the city to move forward cautiously and institute setbacks. He suggested 150 metres from any sensitive area.
“The bottom line is none of us are against medical marijuana,” he said. “It’s just a matter of where do we want to put it?”
Some of the concerns raised around the table included everything from security to the potential for odours from such as facility.
“These facilities smell, they do,” Pietrangelo said. “Get the facts. There are issues.”
But Diodati said odours occur in the city already.
“We have the Post plant, which used to be Nabisco, and the Stanley Avenue sewage plant. When it smells, we get complaints.”
Coun. Kim Craitor, meanwhile, thought it might be wise for council to wait until seeing what happens with the new Liberal government. Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau had run a campaign with the legalization of marijuana as part of his platform.”
“The feds may come in and change all the regulations,” Craitor said. “Maybe we should just wait. People may be making applications based on what we decide tonight.”
But it wasn’t only the politicians who had their say.
Resident Steve Abruscato told councillors he didn’t want to see any such facilities in the city.
“I personally feel there are other options available where the city could create jobs,” he said.