Proposed industrial hemp operation causes a stir

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Some debate occurred at the August 10 Council meeting regarding proposed plans for an industrial hemp operation to be established south of Kemptville. The operation will see hemp grown at the site, which is located off of Bedell Road.

“The proposed development would permit an industrial hemp operation and the construction of an agricultural research facility to permit the land to be used for hemp cultivation, processing and storage of hemp seeds, grains, stems, leaves, and flowering heads,” reads a report presented to Council. A brief summary of some of the concerns raised about the proposed facility was given at the meeting.

Concerns include odour, water consumption from the vulnerable aquifer, impact on property values, heavier vehicle traffic, and more.

Mayor Peckford asked for clarification on the differences between cannabis and industrial hemp. Director of Planning and Development, Amy Martin, pointed out that there is a distinction between the two in the Municipality’s zoning by-laws due to differences in how the two are grown, and how they are regulated by Health Canada. Hemp contains far less THC than cannabis.

Dr. Jamie Ghossein of Cannabis Orchards Inc., the company hoping to build the hemp facility, addressed Council with a brief presentation. Dr. Ghossein is a physician and hemp researcher, who also plans to build a residence beside the proposed hemp cultivation site. He explained that Cannabis Orchards Inc. produces new hemp varieties which are distributed to other companies.

“I’d like to state what this is not,” said Dr. Ghossein at the meeting. “This is not a cannabis or marijuana production facility. I have actually never consumed any cannabis or marijuana myself.” He also confirmed that there is no street value or abuse potential with industrial hemp, that there are no significant odours emitted, and that there are no security requirements under local bylaws. Dr. Ghossein pointed out that there is nothing to prevent anyone who owns agriculturally zoned land from growing hemp under local by-laws, but that the Municipality’s Planning Department wanted to make sure that the public would know what the land is going to be used for.

He addressed some of the public’s concerns, confirming that the site would only use one small water well, no pesticides, fertilizers, or heavy metals, and will have curtains which will eliminate light pollution from the greenhouses.

Local resident Anne-Marie Bridger lives on Bedell Road, and spoke to Council at the meeting in opposition to the proposed hemp operations. She first mentioned that she supports agricultural practices, and comes from agricultural roots. She then presented an argument that the facility would not meet the requirements of the existing by-law, because the hemp would not be grown for consumption as food or manufacturing material.

Another resident, Jennifer Cleary, also addressed Council. “I’m speaking for the turtles,” she said, mentioning that there are turtles in the area which need protection. She did not provide details on how the proposed hemp facility might affect the turtles, but she did express agreement with Anne-Marie’s comments. Director Martin addressed this concern, saying that there are no wetlands on the property, and no provisions for the turtles are therefore required.

Councillors O’Sullivan, Barclay, and Strackerjan weighed in to the discussion, asking questions and receiving answers from Dr. Ghossein. Anne-Marie Bridger spoke to Council a second time, asking that, if the facility is approved, measures could be put into place to ensure it does not affect air quality.

Despite a recommendation from Municipal staff to defer a decision on the application, Council instead moved ahead with a motion to approve the project, citing the thoroughness of the report in addressing the concerns of the public. The motion was passed, and the facility construction will proceed.

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