Micro applicant challenging New Brunswick zoning in court

| David Brown

A micro cannabis applicant in New Brunswick is challenging the province’s decision to deny their rezoning application earlier this year. 

Gina Brown, co-owner of Anchor Cannabis, applicant for a micro cultivation and processing licence, applied earlier this year to their local Southeast Regional Service Commission for an amendment to allow them to change their zoning from agricultural to industrial.

Brown, along with her husband Jared, originally applied for an indoor micro cannabis cultivation licence in April of 2019 for their property in Upper Coverdale, NB, just outside of Moncton. 

Although they originally received confirmation that they were properly zoned to grow cannabis, a subsequent change to the provincial rules banned indoor production on agricultural land. Because of this, they applied to have to change their zoning to industrial but were denied by the province. 

The changes had come via a directive issued on May 17, 2019 by Jeff Carr, then the Minister of Department of Environment and Local Government in New Brunswick. The directive limits indoor cannabis production to industrial zones. Any new applicants seeking to grow cannabis indoors who are already located on agricultural land were required to apply to have their land rezoned to industrial.

Brown is taking the government of New Brunswick to court to challenge both the denial of their rezoning, as well as a previous appeal of the province’s May 2019 directive. 

“They didn’t follow the law,” says Brown. “So I’m going to court to not just say they didn’t follow the law, but to argue that the decision to not allow a family farm to grow cannabis is itself unreasonable.”

“The way New Brunswick looks at cannabis is clearly broken and that’s the argument I am going to make,” she continues. “This is unreasonable and incorrect in how they have applied this directive to our farm”

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Rod Wilson, who operates Hidden Harvest, a cannabis nursery in New Brunswick was impacted by the province’s directive, too, but says he’s continued to operate his business and has not been challenged by the province. 

Wilson is also the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Craft Cannabis Association and recently released a White Paper, “Cannabis Policy for Rapid Job Creation”, to address what he sees as the slow response from the province to recognize the economic opportunity for cannabis in New Brunswick.

In addition to the zoning restrictions, Wilson says the province has been slow to recognize or address how to allow him to sell seeds and clones from his nursery into the provincial supply chain. 

These restrictions, he argues, are preventing others from applying in New Brunswick, while neighbouring Nova Scotia sees many new licence holders. 

Currently there are 13 Health Canada cannabis licensees in New Brunswick, which includes 4 micro-cultivators and one cannabis nursery license. Nova Scotia has 21 cannabis licensees including 9 micro-cultivators, Newfoundland has 6 cannabis licenses, and Prince Edward Island 3.

Rather than preventing the industry from growing, he says the province should be looking at ways to foster its growth, especially in the wake of the significant economic downturn due to COVID.

“I just want to let them know that if we took some time and thought about cannabis, it could be a part of the solution to that post pandemic economic opportunity for a whole host of reasons, so I don’t want them to forget about that, and i want to keep it a part of the discussion,” says Wilson.