Pot farmers in race against time

The owners of a marijuana grow-op near Renton are in danger of losing their crop.Rich Sun Investments, of Toronto, has 1,740 plants under cultivation in a greenhouse at 5148 Highway 3.Because the greenhouse lacks odour-control technology, it is subject to Norfolk’s bylaw requiring a 300-metre setback from sensitive land uses such as homes.That bylaw was passed in early 2018. Rich Sun has been growing marijuana at this location since late last year. For the past 10 months, it has been in violation of Norfolk’s setback requirement.A report to council this week says Norfolk’s bylaw enforcement department has received odour complaints.“Staff received reports of a strong, obnoxious, skunk-like odour emanating from the greenhouse facility, negatively affecting the neighbouring property owners,” says principal planner Mat Vaughan.Speaking on behalf of her neighbours, Simcoe lawyer Maria Kinkel told council the complaints are not exaggerated.“I live within two kilometres of the property and I can smell it two kilometres away,” Kinkel said.Rich Sun has bought some of the adjoining homes in an effort to create the required buffer. Rich Sun asked the county for a 213-metre variance from the setback but was denied at Tuesday’s meeting.The Rich Sun greenhouse is a “designated grower” facility. Unlike large-scale greenhouse operations licensed by Health Canada, designated grower facilities are subject to few rules and little oversight.As a result of a court ruling involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, consumers of medical marijuana can contract out their needs to third-party growers. Each designated grower is allowed to produce marijuana for four clients.The 1,740 plants at the Rich Sun facility belong to four clients. Rich Sun planning consultant Terrance Glover says this is not an unusual number for designated facilities. Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman begged to differ.“It doesn’t just sound like an extraordinary number of plants, it is an extraordinary number of plants,” she said.Huffman added this planting has caused months of unease and discomfort for surrounding property owners and should be shut down.“There is no need to barter,” she said. “I’m tired of being patient.”Windham Coun. Chris Van Paassen is also skeptical. He recalled a time when police pegged the value of marijuana plants seized during a raid at $1,000 apiece.“I want to meet the four people who smoke up $1.74 million over the course of a year,” Van Paassen said.One of those prescription holders is Estelle Li. Li said she works at the Rich Sun facility. Li told council her marijuana prescription is for chronic ankle pain.Li said she is not at liberty to divulge the name of the Toronto man behind Rich Sun Investments and the recent purchase of surrounding properties.Glover told council Rich Sun has applied for a Health Canada production licence and has recently invested in activated charcoal filters to address odour issues.Mayor Kristal Chopp expressed skepticism over this because Norfolk has not received Health Canada notification, as required, of Rich Sun’s application.Chopp also noted that the $3,700 Rich Sun has spent on air filtration is not enough to service a 50,000-square-foot facility.What Rich Sun needs more than anything is time. Glover says the illegal planting is two weeks from maturity. He asked council to find a way to tolerate the crop until then but Norfolk’s bylaw department is ready for enforcement.In an email Wednesday, Norfolk’s chief bylaw officer Fritz Enzlin said a course of action will be determined once council affirms Tuesday’s decision.“The investigation is ongoing and any possible enforcement action will only commence after a decision is made by council Sept. 17,” Enzlin said. “We will determine what our next steps will be at that time.”Chopp suggested that Rich Sun post a $100,000 bond in Norfolk County’s name. The bond would be redeemable if the greenhouse is empty in two weeks and stays that way until it complies with Norfolk bylaws. Failure to comply, Chopp said, would result in the bond’s forfeiture to the Norfolk treasury.Glover said he would share the proposal with his client and report [email protected] read more