Councillors on the City of Winnipeg’s property and planning committee heard from several residents at a Monday meeting who raised concerns about homes set up to grow cannabis under federal medicinal licences. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Faced with multiple complaints from residents, Winnipeg city council’s property and planning committee has voted to ask the public service to look at whether the municipality can regulate or ban growing cannabis at home.

Councillors on the committee heard from several residents at a Monday meeting who complained about the odour from homes set up to grow cannabis under medicinal licences issued by the federal government.

They also raised fears about the possible involvement of organized crime in such grow-ops.

Provincial regulations in Manitoba prohibit growing cannabis at home for recreational use, but people with federal licences are allowed to grow plants at home for medical purposes.

A recent CBC News I-Team investigation went to 36 homes suspected of housing medical marijuana grow-ops. Most appeared vacant.

Almost all of the houses had security cameras set up outside, and in some cases, cannabis could be smelled from the street. 

On Tuesday, councillors on the property committee heard from city staff who have already been looking at the issue. 

“It’s a conversation that is happening across Canada … particularly following he legalization of recreational cannabis,” said city planner Rakvinder Hayer.

Most of that dialogue is centred not on regulating or prohibiting that type of property use, but more on how to accommodate it, Hayer told councillors.

“It’s about striking a balance between inconvenience for neighbours versus the right to medicine,” Hayer said.

Winnipeg would have to look at new bylaws if it were to control cannabis cultivation in private homes, he told councillors.

“Under the current rules or tools we have available — under the zoning bylaws, specifically — there isn’t existing bylaws that we found that could be used to prohibit or strongly regulate this.”

Resident Ed Kolodziej told councillors at Monday’s meeting there has been rapid growth of residential cannabis grow operations very close to his own home.

“In my neighbourhood, there are six commercial-scale medicinal grow-ops within a 300-metre radius. That is unacceptable,” Kolodziej said. 

“One year ago, when this issue came before city council, there were only two. So the issue has tripled in one year.”

The committee gave the public administration 120 days to write a report on what the city might do to create sufficient rules to control residential medicinal cannabis growing operations.

The staff say the research will include studying what other municipalities are doing, looking closely at the law to see what Winnipeg can do, and co-ordinating with the provincial and federal governments on the issue.

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