Public Health Grey Bruce says the legal cannabis growing industry could one day hurt agriculture and the local job industry, but local farmers and the labour board aren't too worried about it.
Public Health Dietitian Kathryn Forsyth says there is a need to protect the land for food use, "If it's being changed over to cannabis growing and/or changing greenhouses to producing cannabis, we are losing the ability to produce our own food supply, " says Forsyth who adds, land that would otherwise grow food for people might soon grow cannabis crops.
Forsyth worries cannabis farming could also impact soil quality making it unusable for later food crops, and could wipe out crop rotation. She thinks using greenhouses on land that's not earmarked for farming could be a good option.
Meanwhile, Grey County Federation of Agriculture Director Hugh Simpson says farmers are not so concerned at this point.
He says it should be noted the farm community generally doesn't consider itself Public Health issue experts, but the Ag Federation is supportive of the growing of cannabis.
"While farmers are interested in the preservation of land for agriculture, we would consider the growing of cannabis to the extent that there's a market for it and that it's legal," says Simpson.
He notes, "It's unlikely from a practical weather and rotations point of view (for cannabis) to subsume more traditional, or what we know as today's crop production, corn and beans and canola and wheat and fruits and vegetable as well."
He thinks a lot of the cannabis growth activity is going to be in greenhouse environments, "To the extent that there's arable land, where there's tractors going up and down, I don't think cannabis is going to have a great a deal of impact on that style of farming."
He doubts soil would be manipulated much with chemicals and sprays for cannabis growth but adds, "The federation would want to be aware of that because soil stewardship is one of their priorities, "We don't have a position today that concludes that it damages the soil. It's just another crop in the rotation of a farm."
While Public Health says paying more for food and higher wages for food workers would help protect our food supply, Simpson isn't worried about having to raise food prices either.
"We would really follow the market on this. Supply and demand sort of comes into play," says Simpson who figures, "If food becomes more scarce because cannabis becomes the crop of choice, then there is likely going to need to be an incentive, an economic incentive for farmers to grow food."
"We don't have a sense today or a projection today that includes that as a likely reality though," He adds.
Public Health's Forsyth says ideally, with an increase in food prices, social assistance amounts would have to go up at the same time so people could afford that food.
She has concerns about more jobs moving to the cannabis market in the future saying, "Certainly we're seeing loss of workers in farming and the restaurant sector to go and work for the cannabis operators."
Four County Labour Market Planning Board Director Gemma Mendez Smith says so far, the number of people moving to the cannabis industry is "not significant" compared to the rest of the labour market.
Mendez notes the only local cannabis operation she's aware of at this point is 7ACRES in Tiverton which she says has roughly 650 employees.
She does agree however, that based on a recent labour board case study, workers there enjoy their benefits and rates of pay.