• Kira London-Nadeau

Grow Hard or Grow Home: The Two Sides of Personal Cannabis Cultivation

Growing cannabis at home has been one of the, if not the most, hotly debated issues surrounding how Canadian legalization of nonmedical cannabis will take effect in Quebec. Both the federal and provincial governments are standing firm in their positions, with Canada’s legislation allowing its citizens to grow four plants of cannabis at home, while Quebec prohibits the practice. As the provincial government has stated, it will be up to Quebecers to challenge their province’s position. Let’s take a look at what has brought us to this point.

The Provincial Argument

At the provincial level, Quebec Health Minister Lucie Charlebois has stated that the will of Quebecers, as voiced through public consultations, is to start with a more restrictive approach, which may be revisited and made more lenient after 3 years of nonmedical cannabis legalization. This includes banning homegrown cannabis, a practice that she argues could trivialize and increase the ease of access to the substance.

Along with Jean-Marc Fournier, Quebec’s Canadian Relations Minister, Charlebois has proposed that allowing cannabis to be grown in the home would increase its access by children and adolescents, thus running counter to Bill C-45’s mandate of protecting minors. Additionally, the pair has voiced concerns that four plants can produce considerable amounts of cannabis, of which growers may be tempted to sell the surplus, thus fueling the illicit market.

Charlebois and Fournier have also pointed to the difficulty of regulating the number of plants grown at home as a hurdle to properly enforcing a four-plant maximum.

Ultimately, Quebec’s National Assembly has insisted the federal government recognize its independence and capabilities to regulate its provincial cannabis laws as it deems appropriate.

The Federal Argument

On the federal side, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has insisted its motion to allow homegrown cannabis is entrenched in facts, data, and expert recommendations. Interestingly, and in what seems to be in direct opposition to the province’s point of view, Prime Minister Trudeau and Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s Minister of Health, have argued that allowing home cultivation of cannabis is integral in displacing the illicit market.

The pair has also stated the country’s intention not to create undue criminalization of Canadians for growing small amount of cannabis in their home. As Petitpas Taylor stresses, this legislation remains consistent with permissions granted to Canadians to make their own beer or wine, or grow their own cannabis if they are medical patients.

Other Considerations

Despite not being central arguments, certain concerns have garnered considerable attention. For example, housing associations have expressed reservations about the amount of humidity created by growing cannabis in residential spaces, and the risk of mold and electrical fires associated with the practice. However, experts consulted on the issue have ensured these risks are not higher for cannabis cultivation than for any other indoor gardening.

Similarly, while some have expressed concern that children might accidentally ingest cannabis if plants are present in homes, others have upheld that this would not create any psychoactive effects, as the plant material needs to be warmed to release its psychoactive components.

What Now?

Once legalization comes into effect on October 17th 2018, if Quebecers wish to grow their own nonmedical cannabis at home, they will have to sit tight and wait for what will likely be a lengthy and expensive journey through the courts.