The City of Winnipeg is one step closer to banning some medical cannabis growth within homes, after hearing the change would greatly improve quality of life in many neighbourhoods.
"With these amendments, Winnipeg residents will be assured that their children can go to school, to daycare and to the playground without worrying about a blanket of marijuana effluent covering the area in which they play… They will be assured that they’ll be able to enjoy their own yards without being subjected to the stench of a grow op," Carmen Nedohin told council’s property and development committee on Wednesday.
Nedohin is one of many Winnipeggers who have lobbied the city for months to crack down on medical cannabis growth, which the residents say has become the sole use of some homes in their communities.
The committee unanimously approved a proposal for city staff to create bylaw changes for people who are "designated" to grow cannabis on someone else’s behalf, which Health Canada permits. The changes would restrict that type of cannabis growth to indoor facilities in manufacturing zones and ban the practice from residential areas, pending council approval.
Such growers would be required to obtain a valid business licence, meet set standards for air filtration and locate a minimum distance away from homes, schools, public parks and playgrounds.
The licensing requirement would allow the city to inspect the facilities and issue fines to violators, as well as suspend or revoke licences.
Those who grow their own cannabis for personal medical use would be exempt.
"Designated" growers can currently produce cannabis for up to four separate registrations at one location, which some say resulted in hundreds of plants being grown in a single home. Nedohin said nearly 600 cannabis plants were once grown next door to her home, which is adjacent to a park, playground and school.
"The stench was so bad that not only could we not enjoy our own backyard… we couldn’t use our HVAC because the smell was coming in through the fresh air intake that way," she said.
Nedohin said she expects the proposed changes would go a long way to reducing odour.
Residents said they worried homes in which marijuana is grown might have overtaxed electrical panels, increased fire risk, and attract more crime than a standard home.
Some councillors fear the new bylaws won’t go far enough to address those issues.
Coun. Ross Eadie said he’s still concerned some personal medical prescriptions allow too much marijuana to be grown in one home.
"The amounts are huge now," said Eadie.
The Mynarski councillor also wants city staff to ask that Health Canada set a limit on the number of pot plants that can be grown in a single home. He’d like city staff to set filtration and exhaust system standards for all homes that grow cannabis.
Council’s property and development chairperson believes the current proposal is poised to address residents’ concerns, though she does expect the rules could require frequent updates.
"We’ll probably need to see what more we can do to regulate it, (making) sure we’re not impeding on people’s (health-care) rights," said Coun. Cindy Gilroy.
If council approves the current proposal, bylaw amendments could be ready for a council vote in about six months.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.