While one marijuana company is facing protests over plans to grow pot outside in Ontario, there’s arguably no other way to satisfy high demand for legal weed.
For at least one night in mid-November, the Beckwith Township planning meeting in Ontario seemed like the hottest ticket in town.
About 45 minutes west of Ottawa, the meeting on November 12 was standing room only, with more than a hundred people packing the hall. At the center of the room, dressed in a kind of plaid button-down ubiquitous in rural Ontario and holding a notebook, was Mark Spear. He’s a soft-spoken man who seems to choose his words carefully and deliberately; he seems unlikely, on a personal level, to drum up much controversy, much less one in his own backyard. But it was his company, Burnstown Farms — and their proposal to start growing cannabis outdoors on a 50-acre plot of rural farmland — that had inflamed tensions in the town.
Beckwith Township was witnessing one of the first iterations of municipal planning fights that will likely be repeated across the country in coming years. It revolves around a question that pushes up against the limits of Canadian tolerance of the rapidly expanding cannabis industry, probing just how comfortable communities really are with the plant: whether or not to allow pot producers to grow weed outside on a commercial scale. The option to grow marijuana outdoors commercially is a new one — it was illegal before the Cannabis Act came into force on October 17th — and Burnstown Farms is one of the first companies to seek approval from a municipality for an outdoor production facility.
Even though it is legal under federal law, the packed meeting was evidence that there are still people uncomfortable with the idea of outdoor cannabis farming. Yet its proponents say that it is the future of cannabis growing in Canada, and could become the most common and cost-effective way to meet the country’s growing demand for legal pot.