City of Salmon Arm staff and residents are concerned complaints about local licensed residential cannabis grow operations are not being heard by Health Canada. (File photo)

Salmon Arm residents, city frustrated with Health Canada on cannabis odour concerns

City staff say there is no consultation around licensing of home grow operations

The federal government says it takes complaints about licensed medicinal cannabis grows seriously, but City of Salmon Arm staff aren’t sure if they’re being heard at all.

About two months ago, after receiving public complaints regarding cannabis odours emanating from a residential property near Little Mountain Park, the city copied an email to Health Canada and the RCMP, advising the owner of the residence of the complaints and asking that the issue be addressed. Pearson said Health Canada has yet to follow up with the city.

“They don’t respond,” said Pearson. “They conveniently put on their website that if there are any nuisances, call your local government, which I find quite frustrating because, first of all… they don’t even tell us where these properties are. So then I’m going on people filing anonymous complaints, because they’re afraid and I can understand why they would be afraid.”

In an email to the Observer, Health Canada stated all complaints are taken seriously and it is “prepared to act on any evidence received that individuals who are registered to grow a limited amount of cannabis for medical purposes are not respecting the terms and conditions of their registration.”

Health Canada encouraged people to report a complaint about cannabis, including concerns with cannabis production sites, through its online Cannabis Reporting Form.

M (name withheld) lives in proximity to where those complaints to the city originated, and says she has raised her own concerns with the city regarding odours from a neighbourhood medical cannabis grow.

“The smell, it gets into the dryer, through the vents, when doing the clothes, and now with the smoke – is it going to be smoke or cannabis, or smoke and cannabis together?” said M.

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M has also been in contact with Health Canada and said one of the problems she found is an apparent lack of communication between the federal government and municipalities.

“Our municipality doesn’t seem to know where these grow ops are and people are scared to complain because they’re afraid they’ll get shot if they do,” said M.

Pearson confirmed this was the case. He explained with applications for larger commercial cannabis grow operations, it’s a different story. Applications to run such operations within the municipality are referred to the city for approval.

“Before I sign it, I run it by the building department and the fire department to see if they have any concerns with the site, and then check the zoning…,” said Pearson.

When it comes to home-scale cannabis grow operations, Pearson said there is no consultation regarding licensing.

Health Canada also encouraged municipalities to use the Cannabis Reporting Form to submit information regarding individuals or businesses operating outside the federal Cannabis Act and regulations. Health Canada said all information provided is reviewed and “can assist in the decision process for granting or denying a registration or licence, as well as assisting in compliance and enforcement actions for registered/licensed locations.”

Referring back to his letter, Pearson said he has no idea if any action has been taken on the complaints submitted.

“If they’re going to continue licensing this property, without making the owners fix the odour problem, then to me that’s a problem,” said Pearson. “I think I can speak for actually all of the city… We are frustrated that Health Canada is not listening to us, or seemingly doing anything about it.”

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