Should all Canadians have the right to grow cannabis at home?

Published Jun 12, 2022 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Anna Derzhina

Gardening season is upon us, and still, far too many Canadians won’t have the pleasure of indulging in the art, passion, and hobby that is growing cannabis. Though at the federal level, cannabis is legal in this country, two provinces chose to enact laws prohibiting their citizens from cultivating cannabis for personal use, a luxury that most residents here now deem as normal. It might be hard to believe that even now, more than 3 years into this shift in law and perspective, some Canadians are facing charges or worse for doing something as simple as starting a small cannabis garden, but it’s the truth.

Quebec and Manitoba are the odd ones out

Federal law allows Canadians to grow up to 4 cannabis plants per household, but Quebecers and Manitobans are not permitted to partake in cultivation. These provinces are claiming to have the right to determine what might be best for their residents, but some experts say that it’s a dangerous game of dappling in criminal law, a place that is widely considered to be federal jurisdiction. In Manitoba, the restriction is being challenged by lawyers for Jesse Lavoie, a long-time activist and business owner who believes that all Canadians should have equal opportunity to grow cannabis at home.

Why advocates say these limits should be lifted

There is the legal perspective that is currently being argued by some of the best lawyers and experts in Manitoba, and then there are many other factual arguments put forth by advocates, consumers, and medical patients in favour of removing these limitations on select Canadians based only on the province they live in.

Enforcement is costly and impossible

Pre-legalization, it was impossible for law enforcement to keep up with and track enthusiasts with the drive to cultivate for personal use. It’s always been easy to hide a few plants, and now with the black market creating so many issues for the legal industry, it seems like the money used to enforce this law would be far better spent in other places, like taking down large scale, illegal greenhouses.

It’s turning consumers and patients into criminals

No matter where in the country you reside, cannabis is expensive and, in many cases, unaffordable or inaccessible for consumers. If the plant is truly legal, then it’s perfectly reasonable to allow those who wish to save some money on this expense by purchasing a few seeds and starting a garden or throwing a few pots in front of a windowsill. Most think about recreational users who can’t afford to relax on the weekend, but what about medical patients who quite literally need this relief if they want to live a better quality of life? Both are innocent of wrongdoing, and neither one should be locked up, fined, or charged for growing a few cannabis plants.

There is little to no risk involved with growing cannabis plants outdoors

Some people fear the idea of people growing cannabis outdoors, or even indoors, if it could be accessible to pets or children, but the reality is that in its purest form, as flower, it’s of little to no risk to animals or youth. For much of the growing season, cannabis plants won’t boast high concentrations of cannabinoids, nor will they contain active ingredients that could put curious critters or underage persons at risk through basic contact. Of course, there’s always the possibility of a random teen stealing them, but unless they’re knowledgeable enough to pick them at the right time, dry the product, and then smoke it, they’re highly unlikely to even use the stolen goods.

In Canada, it’s perfectly legal to grow wild parsnip which causes phytophotodermatitis after brief physical contact, while many avid gardeners love the beauty and simplicity of Marigolds, which are toxic when consumed by both certain wildlife and humans. We leave entire fields of the poisonous Giant Hogweed to thrive, and it’s known to cause blindness in the most severe cases of contact, while lining public parks and playgrounds with Lily of the valley, boasting toxic bright red fruits that are commonly accidentally consumed by unsuspecting children.

In this country, we allow nature to thrive in all its forms while still criminalizing those who want to grow something as innocent as cannabis for the sole reason of residing in the wrong province.

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