Dear Herb: How do I know if the grow-op across the street is legal and safe?

Health Canada keeps track of personal medical cannabis grow-ops, but that information isn't available to everyone


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Dear Herb: We have a grow-op across the street. The people say it's legal. How do we actually know that, and who checks to make sure safety standards are in effect?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/06/2018 (1694 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: We have a grow-op across the street. The people say it’s legal. How do we actually know that, and who checks to make sure safety standards are in effect?

— There Goes the Neighbourhood

Dear Neighbourhood: Legal home cannabis grow-ops are relatively uncommon in the grand scheme of things, but they’re definitely out there.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

At the end of last year, Health Canada had 13,829 active registrations for personal cannabis production for medical purposes. The vast majority of those are people who are growing their own supply, but 872 of those registrations are people who act as “designated growers” on behalf of someone else.

Even if the grow-op across the street is registered with Health Canada, though, it doesn’t look as if there’s any way for you to confirm that.

Health Canada keeps the information on file, of course. But a department spokesperson told me those details can only be shared with law enforcement “and with provincial and territorial medical licensing authorities under specific circumstances.”

“This is in accordance with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations and applicable privacy legislation,” wrote the spokesperson.

So, if you thought you could call up some kind of government hotline, provide the grow-op’s address, and get some answers, forget about it — that’s private information.

As for the question of “who checks to make sure safety standards are in effect,” that’s a bit more complicated.

Anyone who’s registered for Health Canada’s personal medical cannabis production program is required to follow a series of rules and regulations. For example, they can’t grow more plants than their licence allows, they can only have a certain amount of cannabis in their possession at any given time, and they can’t share or sell their crop with others.

Health Canada has created safety and security guidance specifically for home cannabis growers — for example, the regulator recommends that indoor cannabis growers use appropriate ventilation to help prevent mould and mildew.

But, reading between the lines of the information I received from the Health Canada spokesperson, it doesn’t sound as though there are federal inspectors who criss-cross the nation inspecting registered home cannabis grow-ops.

“Health Canada investigates complaints and takes additional compliance and enforcement measures, as appropriate,” wrote the spokesperson.

“Health Canada understands that, as in any regulatory framework, there will be instances where individuals choose to operate outside the law. Anyone who suspects the occurrence of activity that may violate a law or a by-law, including the Criminal Code of Canada, should contact their local law or municipal enforcement authority, as appropriate.”

That’s the government’s advice on the matter. My take is a bit different — if you’re worried about the grow-op across the street, I think you should talk directly to your neighbour before heading down the one-way street of getting the authorities involved.

You said your neighbour says their grow-op is legal, which suggests you’ve already broached the subject with them.

Why not take it a step further? Bake your neighbour a nice bundt cake to show your goodwill, cross the street, and pay them a friendly visit to discuss the grow-op face-to-face.

In my personal experience, home cannabis cultivators are often proud of their work and love to show off their gardens. If you approach your neighbour with a kind, non-judgmental attitude, you might be rewarded with a chance to inspect the grow-op in person, learn about how it works, and discuss any safety concerns you might have. If things go especially well, you could even politely ask to check out their Health Canada registration documents.

Of course, it’s possible that your neighbour won’t be interested in giving you a tour of their grow-op, and that’s entirely within their rights. But taking a respectful, neighbourly approach is always a good idea.

For what it’s worth, I doubt your neighbour would lie about their grow-op being legal — if it were illegal, it seems to me they’d be unlikely to talk about it at all.

I hope that helps, Neighbourhood. Please let me know how it goes, and save me a piece of that bundt cake.

Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he’ll look into it.  Email or to submit anonymously, fill out the form below. Please include an email address if you’d like to be notified when Herb answers your question:  


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