Pine Lake-area residents are uniting to block a proposed medical marijuana facility.
About 70 residents turned out for a meeting on the project on Tuesday night at Glenellen Community Centre, across from the proposed medical marijuana site, about 30 km east of Innisfail.
Glenellen Community Centre president Suzanne Hawkes said many are opposed to the project, which is proposed as a 53,000-square-foot facility that would employ 10.
“We have a lot of environmental and social concerns,” said Hawkes on Wednesday.
Rural residents fear the facility will attract crime and should not be located across from a community centre that was renovated in 2009 and has become an increasingly popular local venue.
There are also concerns that the water draw required for such a large facility could damage and deplete local aquifers that residents rely on. Pesticides and other chemicals used in marijuana could also pose a risk to water supplies, they say.
Odour, noise from plant operations and the dust thrown up vehicles coming and going to the plant are other problems residents foresee. The access road to the proposed plant is used only locally now and is hilly and not suitable for high traffic levels, she said.
Hawkes said residents want to see Red Deer County change its bylaws to require medical marijuana facilities to be located in commercial and industrial areas.
Under the county’s existing regulations, medical marijuana facilities are treated as agricultural facilities.
Mayor Jim Wood, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said it’s time to take another look at medical marijuana facilities and where they fit within the county.
“I do believe we need to explore this,” said Wood, who was joined at the meeting by Councillors Philip Massier and Christine Moore.
“Medical marijuana is something quite new. The challenges to communities can be quite huge.
“We want to make sure we make the right decisions for our communities.”
Wood said he is doubtful industrial-sized operations along the lines of the proposed medical marijuana facility are a good fit in many agricultural areas.
Medical marijuana operations also raise security and crime issues, a recurring issue on Tuesday.
“I think the huge concern is the potential for crime in the region.”
The county’s municipal planning commission will review the medical marijuana application on Tuesday.