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Development permit granted for $15-million medical marijuana greenhouse

CLARESHOLM — Plans for medical marijuana to be grown on the old greenhouse site at the south end of the Claresholm Industrial Park, east of Highway 2, advanced last week with approval of a development permit application by Custom Cannabis Inc., to replace the present standing greenhouse structure.
The approval was given Wednesday by a vote of the MD of Willow Creek Municipal Planning Commission.
The work will be a $15-million retrofit, Custom Cannabis chief executive officer Andrew Gaffney said.
Much work has already been done to prepare the site, Gaffney said, with 200 tons of material disposed of from the old greenhouse operation, including the concrete floors.
Now that the development permit application has been approved, the way is cleared for a planned 60,000 sq. ft. highly secure facility, with 40,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space and 20,000 sq. ft. of processing area and offices.
There will be two main buildings and a fire hydrant on site.
While fire safety is top of mind for the facility, inside it will be a high-humidity environment, which in itself will help to prevent fires.
A fire hydrant is also on the site of the facility.
The two planned buildings that will be constructed will be surrounded with eight foot high fences topped with barbed wire. There will be security screening and cameras.
Claresholm development officer Tara Van Dellen asked if the structure would look institutional and out of place among the other businesses in the Claresholm Industrial Park.
“The fencing will be consistent with other fencing on other properties in the area, so it won’t stand out,” Gaffney said, adding gravel landscaping would be the same as other nearby properties.
When the addition of screening was discussed, MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti cautioned councillors about adding that as a requirement.
“We have to understand this is an industrial area and there are other businesses that do not have screening facing the highway,” Vizzutti said. “I would caution you on how far you are going to take this. Operations such as this would have to be mindful of security so they can see over those fences.”
A high level of security will include the staff at the facility needing to use electronic swipe cards to unlock doors and enter any room, Gaffney said.
All plant waste would be fermented first to be rendered inert.
While the growth of the plants requires water usage, Gaffney said 90 per cent of the water inside the greenhouse would be recycled for reuse.
The process to obtain a licence from Health Canada took 14 months, Gaffney said.
“Health Canada expected 20 to 30 applications and received about 2,000,” Gaffney said, adding the application time for new applications for marijuana grow operations is now measured in years.