Despite the noise emanating from both the Senate and Jean-Marc Fournier, Quebec’s Minister for Canadian Relations, the current debate over whether federal or provincial law should decide if cannabis can be cultivated at home is misleading. Arguments against home growing for safety reasons are thinly veiled attempts at establishing and maintaining a government monopoly on cannabis sales.
While federal-provincial tussles are quintessentially Canadian, this debate masks the bigger issue: limiting citizens’ rights to grow recreational cannabis at home. This right should be upheld at all costs because it makes sense legally and economically.
First, a ban on home growing would have serious consequences for Canadian taxpayers. The Allard decision in 2016 set a legal precedent favoring growing cannabis at home. The case found that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that patients have “fair access” to cannabis, and it found that a licensed-producer-only system did not sufficiently support this.
Challenging this ruling will be no small fight. Health Canada has already been under legal attack due to its inability to keep up with the demand for homegrown medical marijuana licenses. With existing delays on this issue in 28 active court cases, it is apparent that Canadians in every province are ready to fight for their right to grow. A prolonged legal battle will fall on the shoulders of already overburdened taxpayers.
Despite waits of up to six months for home grow licenses, Canada now has a critical mass of home cannabis growers. The process has been, in aggregate, unbelievably safe and successful. Today, more than 14,000 patients are growing cannabis at home. Most patients grow between five and 15 plants indoors, although some grow more. Expert witnesses in the Allard case testified that this number of plants pose no increased risk of fires or mould, and these experts were right.
Part of this is due to the nature of home cultivation and what the average home growing setup looks like. Under the proposed Bill C-45, homeowners will be allowed to grow up to four plants at a time. This is entirely different from a commercial setup that typically has hundreds or thousands of plants. Growing hundreds of any type of plant at home would cause issues.
More importantly, cannabis is not an easy plant to cultivate. Many who choose to grow at home elect to use systems designed specifically for safe and responsible cannabis growing. All of these systems, including the one our company makes, are FCC approved to eliminate the risk of electrical fire. They also include built-in locks to keep the plants safe from children and pets. Finally, carbon filters remove all odours to ensure that neighbours are happy, and that homes retain their value. Today, grow boxes have become home appliances, and growing cannabis is now as safe and unobtrusive as having a fridge in your kitchen.
Finally, there is a question of access due to cost. The government is targeting a cost of $10 per gram of cannabis. Today, however, the average cost across Canada is currently $6.83 per gram. Home growers produce cannabis for around $0.90 per gram.
Home growing lowers the costs of cannabis so that it is accessible to individuals at all income levels.
Canada is setting a positive example for the world by making cannabis legal in a responsible manner. Including an allowance for home growing is the most responsible thing we can do to ensure that all Canadians have fair access to safe cannabis.