Winnipeg pushes medical cannabis grow-ops out of residential neighbourhoods

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Legal grow-ops to be licensed and moved into manufacturing or industrial areas

The City of Winnipeg is closing a pair of loopholes that allow medical cannabis grow-ops to sprout up in homes in quiet residential neighbourhoods.

City council's property committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve bylaw changes that will require Health Canada-approved medical cannabis production facilities to operate within industrial or manufacturing areas.

In a parallel move next week, council's protection committee will consider a report that will require medical cannabis growing operations to be licensed and inspected by the city and pay fines for violating those licences.

The moves are intended to provide relief to people living in residential neighbourhoods where medical grow-ops have emerged since the federal government legalized cannabis, including within new developments in the Waverley West ward.

The city is not proposing a proscription against people who grow small quantities of medical cannabis for themselves.

The changes apply only to designated cannabis production facilities — places where medical cannabis is cultivated by someone authorized by Health Canada to produce a limited amount on behalf of someone with a medical prescription.

"It's a balanced approach that doesn't interfere with people's individual rights," city planning, property and development director John Kiernan told council's property committee Tuesday.

The changes to the city bylaw require cannabis cultivation or storage facilities to be a minimum distance away from residential properties, schools, public parks or playgrounds.

Growers also have to obtain and maintain a valid business licence.

Residential groups spoke in favour of the new bylaw, but longtime medical cannabis advocate Steven Stairs said fines won't be enough to deter criminal elements who continue to grow medical cannabis in residential homes.

The new bylaw still requires approval from executive policy committee and city council.

The protection committee will consider the new medical cannabis licensing program on April 11.

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