Photo Credit: Roberto Valdivia via Unsplash

 

A big stink (pun intended) has been made recently here in St. Catharines about the opening of a new cannabis operation on the corner of Vansickle Road and St. Paul Street West. 

 

Since it became public knowledge that it would be replacing Hudson Welding & Fabricating, groups of local people have been outside protesting this decision on several occasions. While I might have had some sympathy for them a few years ago, as it is today, they really have no leg to stand on.

 

For starters, many claim concern about the smell, which is fair. Most people don’t care to smell marijuana the second that they walk out of their house every morning. However, given its proximity to residential areas and the requirements in place surrounding that, it isn’t going to smell like other facilities because by law it is required to have smell mitigation technology in place. This is accomplished through a complex filtration system that not all cannabis facilities are required to have, but this one is.

 

Beyond the issue of smell though, there is no other reasonable excuse that anyone has given for why this business shouldn’t be allowed to go into this building.

 

According to Statistics Canada, the cannabis industry contributed $8.26 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. That is nothing to scoff at. While it’s a fairly small industry in the grand scheme of things (given that Canada’s GDP was $1.7 trillion in 2018), Niagara is the third-largest cannabis-producing region in the country. Given the impact of COVID-19 on service-based economies like ours here in Niagara, we shouldn’t be trying to turn away any lucrative businesses looking to set up shop here, not without legitimate legal concerns at least.

 

Speaking of legal, do these people protesting remember that cannabis is no longer illegal in all of Canada? Some of the protestors’ signs have things on them like, “No grow ops in our neighbourhood” in an attempt to paint this as some shady, illegal operation. 

 

Cannabis was legalized in order to get money out of the hands of criminals. Do I agree entirely with how they have gone about doing that? No, of course not. Our record expungement program is heavily lacking and the majority of retail and production licenses have gone to massive corporations instead of smaller producers, among a litany of other things. However, am I happy that people now have access to a supply of recreational marijuana that is guaranteed to be safe every time and our local communities can now reap the benefits of the safe growth, distribution and commercial sale of marijuana? Absolutely and so should the protestors.

 

If residents really had a problem with bringing legalized cannabis into our community, then the time to make your opinion known isn’t two years and counting post-legalization. There was a period when municipalities in Ontario, St. Catharines included, were holding public hearings on whether to allow marijuana to be sold and grown in our city back in 2019. Council then voted unanimously (yes, unanimously) to allow stores in the city. In February of this year, council voted against a by-law to halt the creation of any further growing facilities in the city. 

 

None of this was done in secret. If you’re so against these facilities, but didn’t know about these important votes or contact your councillors or attend the council meeting to voice your concern, then you really have nobody to blame but yourself.

 

Ironically enough, this facility is being built here because of a by-law introduced by council on the urge of “concerned citizens” to not allow these facilities to be built on land that is zoned for agricultural use. I’m sorry, but if people are concerned about the smell caused by cannabis facilities, why would they be against them being built on agricultural land, away from residential areas? 

 

That’s my issue with this whole situation and the suburban outlook on cannabis facilities as a whole, you can’t sit on your hands when given the chance to make yourself heard and then complain and carry on when you don’t get your way. 

 

What’s most likely going to happen is that a year from now, after this facility opens, residents in the area will be keen on finding things to complain about (and likely will) but in reality it won’t be half of what they built it up to be in their heads. Meanwhile, the facility will create jobs in the region and it will supply safe, legal weed to countless people, potentially across the whole country. Best of all is that we will all be able to move on with our lives. Hopefully, when that day comes, some of these high strung protestors might give some of their product a try and calm down a little bit.