Land Use Compatibility Studies For Cannabis Facilities
If you have, or are planning to open a Cannabis Production Facility (CPF) in Ontario, the local municipality has probably required that the facility to complete a Land Use Compatibility (LUC) assessment. This would address the environmental concerns of odour, dust, and noise. So what does that entail?
Federally, under the Cannabis Regulations facilities are required to install and maintain air filtration systems. While the regulation refers to air filters, we are seeing more and more that this requirement has translated into the requirement for the air leaving the greenhouse/facility to be treated with a carbon filter.
For facilities that grow, harvest, cultivate, and dry cannabis, these operations are generally considered agricultural operations by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). This means that for facilities that grow, and harvest cannabis an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) or EASR is not likely necessary, as they are considered exempt as the operations are classified as agricultural. For operations that involve cannabis beverages, cannabis edibles, cannabis oils, etc, an ECA or EASR will likely be required as this falls outside of the agricultural exemption.
So what is a Land Use Compatibility Assessment:
Most Land use Compatibility Assessments fall under the MECP’s D-Series Guidelines. The D-6 guideline was primarily intended for use to assess compatibility between industrial facilities and neighbouring land uses. However, the guideline can also be used where there is no other guidelines available to assist.
Most of the concern around cannabis facilities relates to odour and light spillage. The growing and harvesting of cannabis is known to create strong odours, which can travel from quite some distance. Municipalities across Ontario have created their own zoning by-laws that have required minimum setback distances between 30 to 500 m.
Depending on the separation distance between the facility, and nearby sensitive receptors (i.e. houses), noise from onsite equipment (fans, trucks, forklifts, etc) can also be an issue.
Odour is typically the most contentious issue within cannabis production facilities. There are a variety of ways to manage odours, use of carbon filtration systems, both inside and outside of the facility. Proper design of the ventilation system to keep the growing areas under negative pressure can also help minimize fugitive emissions.
Many municipalities are also requiring facilities to develop best practices odour management plans, to ensure the facility is prepared to respond to odour complaints, or failures are the facility which could result in increases in odour impacts off site.
Offsite odour impacts can be predicted using atmospheric chemistry dispersion modelling. This model provides information on how the odour will dispersion or dilute as it gets further away from the source (i.e. green house fans, growing room ventilation systems, etc). The results of the odour modelling can also be helpful in deciding if the carbon filtration system is sufficient or if additional controls would be necessary.