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Agreement on Timing of Votes & Home Cultivation

This is the third in a series of posts on the Senate’s consideration of Bill C-45 which would legalize and strictly regulate the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis in Canada


An important agreement is reached on the timing of Senate votes on Bill C-45, and my thoughts on the Bill’s approach to growing cannabis at home.

Agreement on timing of votes…. On February 15, and against the backdrop of threats to delay consideration of Bill C-45, Senate leaders reached an important agreement on the timing of key votes on the Bill, and on its review by Senate committees.  A vote to refer the Bill to committee will occur on March 22, and a vote on Third Reading will occur on June 7.  Following Royal Assent being given to the Bill, several weeks will be needed to finalize regulations before a green light is given to provinces and territories to open up retail stores and on-line sales.  This is a positive development for provinces, territories, municipalities, police, producers and retailers who have been seeking more certainty about timing in order to plan for staffing and lease arrangements.

Growing Cannabis at home…. Bill C-45 would allow Canadians to grow up to four cannabis plants in private residences subject to decision-making by provinces, territories and municipalities, and where seeds or seedlings are obtained from licensed producers.  This is receiving considerable attention from Senators.

In its 2016 report the expert Task Force on Cannabis noted that is currently legal in Canada to grow up to 15kg of tobacco and to brew wine and beer in private residences – both of which are harmful and addictive.  It was also noted that all US states with legal cannabis, except Washington, permit hone cultivation of between four and six plants.

Concerns about home cultivation include  potential health and safety issues, potential exposure of children to cannabis, and potential diversion of product to the illicit market.  Police agencies have raised concerns about enforceability and would prefer that there be no legal home cultivation.

Following consultation with their own populations, most provinces have announced their intention to allow up to four plants to be grown at home, with varying degrees of restrictions being placed on cultivation.  Quebec and Manitoba have decided to ban home cultivation, while Saskatchewan, PEI and Newfoundland have yet to decide on this.  Nunavut is considering a provision whereby operators of multi-unit dwellings could prohibit cultivation in apartments. B.C. is also restricting where cultivation can occur and landlords/strata councils may restrict or prohibit home cultivation

This poses an interesting policy challenge with a range of conflicting views:

- Police are concerned that legal home cultivation will be unenforceable; that it could create safety hazards, and that the cultivation of four plants per household in a multi-dwelling building could, in combination, comprise a sizeable grow-op; Some jurisdictions are contemplating restrictions on home cultivation in multi-dwelling buildings;

- On the other hand, many Canadians grow cannabis for their own use today and would continue to do so even without a legal mandate to do;

- Illegal grow ops are unlikely to be disrupted in the absence of a legal right to home cultivation;

- Home growing is permitted for licensed medical cannabis users and it is likely that the government is seeking consistency between the medical and recreational systems in order to avoid incenting a migration of recreational users into the medical system;

- Some have suggested that home cultivation should be decriminalized as opposed to being legalized, and therefore subject to ticketing such as in the case of parking offences; in the case of small-scale home cultivation it would not result in criminal records, although large scale grow-ops would attract more severe penalties and could result in criminal convictions;

- A large majority of provinces and territories have decided to permit home cultivation, albeit with restrictions; it might be argued that provincial/territorial jurisdiction to make these decisions should be respected.

What would you recommend?

In my next post we will look at minimum age for legal access to cannabis.  As it looks right now, all provinces and territories (except Saskatchewan which has yet to decide) have paralleled their existing age requirement for purchasing alcohol or opted for age 19.  Quebec has adopted age 18.