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Vernon residents say legal grow-op stinks

August 05, 2016 - 9:00 PM

VERNON - A Vernon couple says they can’t sit on their porch some days because the odour from a nearby grow-op is overwhelming.

The couple, who asked to remain anonymous because they feared repercussions if their identities were revealed, say they first noticed the smell a few years ago. The odour comes and goes, they say, but at times can be unbearable. 

“On Friday evening, just after supper, we were sitting on the back deck and it was so strong it brought tears to my eyes. I almost felt nauseated and had to come inside,” the elderly woman says.

The smell seemed to improve for a while, they say, but has returned stronger than ever. And because the operation has a license, there’s not much the police, or the city can do.

“We called city hall back when it started and they referred us to the police,” the woman says. “We contacted the RCMP to see if there’s anything they can do about it. They told us it’s legal, so they can’t do anything.”

No one answered the door when attempted to contact the operators of the facility. The smell of marijuana was apparent outside the building.

“We’ve almost given up on it, but why should we have to put up with this?” the woman says.

She says she and her husband don’t have a problem with medical marijuana in general, and support its use among those in need, but insist something must be done to contain the odour.

“There has to be something to get rid of this smell,” the man says. “If we ever decide to sell our place I don’t know how we would sell it.”

The couple has since contacted Vernon city councillor Scott Anderson, who says it’s not the first time he’s heard complaints about legal grow-ops.

“I have had numerous complaints but the one that really touched me is (this) couple who had tears in their eyes because they couldn’t sit on their front porch anymore. I went down there and it smells awful…it smells like a skunk got run over in front of the house,” Anderson says.

He stresses the issue at hand is not about the merits of marijuana as medicine, or about legalizing the drug, but purely about the odour problem.

“It’s the smell in a residential neighbourhood. If a guy next door opened a pig farm, it’s going to be a nuisance and a hardship,” Anderson says.

But, there’s not much the city can do. Kim Flick, Vernon’s director of community development, says the city adopted a bylaw in August of 2014 which permits medical marijuana production facilities on industrial and ALR land, as long as they have a license from Health Canada and a business license from the city. The bylaw followed federal changes to the medical marijuana system, which attempted to prohibit residential grow-ops in favour of large-scale, commercial facilities. However, the federal court of appeal has upheld an injunction allowing patients to keep growing at home, and that’s made things complicated for local government.

The city is aware of local residents living in proximity to residential grow-ops, and while their laws only allow such facilities on industrial and agricultural land, their hands are tied because of the injunction.

“We sympathize with them, but there’s nothing we can do,” Flick says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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