Dear Herb: Can I grow more than four cannabis plants at home if the plants aren’t budding?

Today's letter writer was told provincial law might allow cultivation of more than four plants if some of those plants are just wee babies -- but Herb lays down the law


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Dear Herb: I'm in the process of growing cannabis in Alberta. We are allowed four plants per household.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/01/2019 (1485 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: I’m in the process of growing cannabis in Alberta. We are allowed four plants per household.

I’ve heard some provinces only consider cannabis plants to be (legal) cannabis plants during the budding stage of growth.

This would allow growers to clone strains/genetics they like and rotate new healthy vegetative plants into budding once they’ve harvested their four budded plants. This speeds up yield times. More importantly, it lets growers grow four different strains they like, and use cloning to keep the genetics going and allow the harvest of four different strains every time without having to restart from seeds.

Nowhere online can I find a definitive answer on Alberta’s take on this. 

My question is: In Alberta, can I clone as many plants as I want as long as I have no more than four plants budding at a time? — Looking for a Loophole

Dear Looking: I’ve received a few variations on this question since legalization.

These immature cannabis clones haven't started budding just yet. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Unfortunately for you and other home cannabis cultivators, it’s not true that some provinces only consider cannabis plants to be cannabis plants during the budding stage of growth.

The vast majority of the rules surrounding non-medical home cannabis cultivation are laid out in federal law, not provincial law. It’s federal law that defines when a cannabis plant is considered a cannabis plant in any context — including home cultivation — and that definition remains the same across all legal jurisdictions in Canada.

Under the Cannabis Act, a cannabis plant is defined quite simply as a plant that belongs to the genus Cannabis. Nothing in the federal law or its associated regulations states that a cannabis plant doesn’t count as a cannabis plant if it’s not yet budding.

In fact, the Act explicitly states that it is strictly prohibited “for an individual to possess more than four cannabis plants that are not budding or flowering” anywhere, including at home. Beyond that, the law also says that a person cannot cultivate more than four cannabis plants at any one time in their dwelling-house (at least, not without a government registration to do so for medical purposes).

Keeping in mind the aforementioned definition of a “cannabis plant,” the law here is crystal clear: You may not legally keep more than four plants belonging to the genus Cannabis in your house at any one time, regardless of whether or not they’re budding. (Again, the only exception would be a government authorization to grow cannabis plants for personal medical use.)

There’s a reason you can’t find any information about whether Alberta law permits the kind of cannabis cloning scheme you propose: Alberta law has nothing to do with it. In Alberta, and in every other province and territory, federal law makes it illegal to cultivate more than four cannabis plants in one home, full stop.

It doesn’t matter if the plant is an immature clone, or if it’s vegetative and not yet budding, or anything else — you get up to four plants per household, and no more (unless you live in Manitoba or Quebec, in which case growing even one plant would be violating provincial laws that prohibit non-medical home cannabis cultivation entirely).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Looking. You could still keep a single mother plant in your home and snip up to three clones from that plant without breaking the law.

If you really want to experiment with cannabis genetics without breaking the law, you might be better off looking into a micro-cultivation licence, or perhaps a nursery licence.

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.

First, please check this list of questions already answered by Herb. Then, 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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